Is It Legal Not to Provide Medical Care to a Prisoner ?

In Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S. Ct. 285, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the government has an obligation under the Eighth Amendment to provide medical care for those being punished by incarceration. The denial of medical care to a prisoner may result in pain and suffering that does not serve any penological purpose, and the infliction of unnecessary suffering is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency. Id. Thus, deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners is proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. Id. This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response to a prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Id. "Regardless of how evidenced, deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury states a cause of action under 1983." Id. at 105.