Prescription Diet in Prisons

August 9, 2016

The Seventh Circuit provides guidance on prisoner medical diet claims.

In McDonald v. Hardy, 821 F.3d 882 (7th Cir. 2016), a prisoner serving a life sentence was diagnosed with arthritis and high cholesterol, and received a low-cholesterol diet prescribed by a prison dietician for ten years. When a new warden terminated the dietician and cancelled all special diets, the prisoner filed suit. He asserted cruel and unusual punishment claims, as well as an equal protection claim based on the assertion that other Illinois prisons provided prescription diets. The Seventh Circuit Appellate Court found that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment on his claims. The Court reasoned that the prisoner’s diagnoses of arthritis and high cholesterol were serious medical conditions and that a jury could find the warden’s interference with a physician’s treatment plan could harm the prisoner. The Seventh Circuit noted that the warden made no effort to establish that the prisoner’s level of total cholesterol remained steady after his prescription diet was taken away and that the warden did not offer any expert’s opinion that the prisoner could not have been harmed by the defendants’ actions. The case was remanded to the District Court for trial.

McDonald v. Hardy

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