Read It First

By Robert Andrew Bartlett, Sr.

From PHN Issue 28, Spring 2016

An incarcerated person is not required to sign anything. When a person in prison seeks medical care, the same rules apply as in other situations involving important legal rights. Don’t sign any document without first reading it carefully. Then sign it only if it benefits you. Trust no one who works for the prison system.

I recently suffered from a broken leg. A couple of months after I reported signs of internal bleeding, guards said to get ready to go for x-rays, but a nurse subsequently brought me a form and told me to sign it. She acted very impatient when I insisted on reading it first, but if I hadn’t, I might have been dead by now. It was a refusal form.

As much pain as I was in, I assured the offending medical staff person that I was not foolish enough to let her coerce me into signing a refusal of needed medical care. I spent ten days filing formal requests, informal requests and grievances. I finally got an x-ray and a cast. When my pending litigation is completed, I should also have some money.

On the other hand, do express yourself verbally and in writing.

Memos, letters and formal grievances are important elements of an incarcerated person’s own first aid. If you don’t advocate for the care you’re entitled to, who will?

If you have family or friends outside who can and will help you, tell them what you need. Be sure prison medical staff have your written permission to discuss your case with your family or friends; then send them copies of your paperwork if possible.

So remember: Do make your need known verbally and in writing. Do not consent to or agree with any statement or demand that could be used to deny your rights.


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