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Inmate Claims He Was Needlessly Handcuffed and Shackled During and After Emergency Appendectomy

Despite objections from surgeon, prison guards kept patient restrained for days, according to lawsuit.

Published: September 14, 2017

UNNECESSRY RESTRAINT? A prisoner alleges he was shackled during emergency surgery and restrained for days after despite objections by his surgical team.

A jail inmate who developed appendicitis while in custody contends prison guards shackled and handcuffed him to the OR table before, during and for days after an emergency surgery — despite repeated pleas from nurses and his surgeon that the patient be allowed to move around so that he could recover properly.

Benjamin J. Davis, 24, last week filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the restraints caused complications that required a second surgery and prolonged his painful recovery.

Mr. Davis was stricken while serving a 180-day sentence at the Cape May County (N.J.) Correctional Center for driving with a suspended license and disorderly conduct and taken to a nearby hospital.

While being prepped for surgery, Mr. Davis alleges he was kept shackled and handcuffed to the bed over the objections of medical personnel at Cape Regional Medical Center. A pair of corrections officers allegedly cited prison policy for keeping Mr. Davis in restraints.

The surgeon and nurse then "insisted that the officers wait outside" the operating room while the surgery took place to avoid an increased risk of infection, but the officers refused and remained in the OR throughout the entire procedure, the lawsuit says.

The complaint further alleges that Mr. Davis was then shackled and handcuffed to a hospital bed for several days after his surgery, despite protests from physicians, one of whom said his "organs were shutting down, his intestinal [tract] was becoming kinked and he was not recovering as he should because he was not permitted to stand and move around."

Eventually, says the suit, Mr. Davis's condition deteriorated to where he needed a second surgery. Only then, it says, was he permitted to move around, provided he remain shackled and handcuffed.

Mr. Davis, says the suit, lost 30 pounds during a 12-day hospital stay and was "shrunken and unable to stand upright or walk properly" when he was returned to jail.

According to the complaint, prison officials then ignored a physician's request that Mr. Davis be seen for a follow-up in one week, instead forcing him to wait "two and a half to three weeks" despite "constant pain and obvious signs of poor health."

The suit names as defendants Cape May County, multiple jail officers and various others. In addition to monetary damages and attorney's fees, it asks that officers be prohibited from taking similar actions in the future. Prison officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Jim Burger

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