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State Wins Delay In Prison Health Care Trial

Illinois officials have persuaded a federal judge to delay a trial over health care in state prisons.

The move drew a rebuke from the plaintiffs’ lawyers — who are representing a group that includes every inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The lawsuit alleges Illinois is doing a terrible job of meeting its constitutional obligation to provide adequate health care in its prisons.

Lead attorney Harold Hirshman says a court-appointed physician estimates the Illinois prison system has one preventable death every month.

“Think of it as a random death penalty that Illinois has,” Hirshman says.

In one case, a diabetic’s insulin was allegedly cut off by a physician who was not trained in primary care.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The trial had been set for September 24. The state wanted that delayed until December, saying it needs more time to analyze and rebut the court-appointed physician's final report.

The judge, however, gave them only until October 15.

The case is Lippert v. Ghosh, No. 10-cv-04603 (N.D. Ill.). The plaintiffs are being represented by both the Uptown People's Law Center and the ACLU of Illinois. The state is being represented by the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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