Suing for Sleep: Middle River Regional Jail Sued for Denying Inmates Sleep Apnea Treatment
Written by: Sam Orlando
Staunton, VA — An inmate at Middle River Regional Jail (MRRJ) in Staunton, Virginia, has filed a lawsuit alleging that the jail's medical department has failed to provide necessary medical treatment for severe sleep apnea. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1983 and is set to be overseen by Judge Cullen.
Fred E. Pryor Jr., the plaintiff, was arrested and processed into MRRJ on November 22, 2022.
He claims that he disclosed his medical conditions and needs at that time, asking for an extra blanket for cold allergies and a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine for his sleep apnea.
According to the lawsuit, despite being incarcerated for nine months, Pryor claims the facility has done nothing to accommodate his medical needs. He states that sleep apnea "is not something to play with" and is "a life-threatening occurrence if not treated properly."
Experts agree on the severity of untreated sleep apnea. Dr. Daniel Shade, Director of the AHN Sleep Disorders Center, has stated that sleep apnea can close one's airway for 30 seconds to a minute before reflexes restore normal breathing. Over time, this condition could lead to critical issues affecting heart function, metabolism, and glucose control. Dr. Shade confirms that untreated sleep apnea, severe enough, can be fatal.
Pryor has not only signed for the release of his medical records but also claims to have filed grievances regarding the absence of proper medical treatment. "My grievance was answered, but there has been no result," reads a portion of the lawsuit filed on August 22, 2023.
Pryor is seeking the immediate provision of a CPAP machine and proper care for his cold allergies, as well as monetary damages of 2.5 million dollars for the alleged neglect. The lawsuit also demands that future inmates be adequately treated for their medical needs. Pryor indicated that he would request a trial by jury if the case goes to trial.
Can a jail refuse to treat a potentially life-threatening illness, because it is inconvenient? This case raises concerns about the healthcare system within penal institutions, drawing attention to the potential human rights implications of not adequately treating inmates with severe medical conditions.
The lawsuit comes amid growing scrutiny of the healthcare facilities in correctional institutions, where incarcerated individuals are often at higher risk for health complications due to a lack of adequate medical care.
Middle River Regional Jail has not responded to the allegations in Pryor's complaint. Stay tuned to Breaking Through News and we will bring you updates on Pryor's lawsuit against MRRJ, as they become available.