When Nevada death row inmate Charles Randolph asked for a specific medicine to address his heart condition earlier this year, Max Carter, the prison’s physician assistant, told him the medication was the wrong kind and potentially lethal, but he would be happy to prescribe it “so that your chances of expiring sooner are increased,” reports the Los Angeles Times. At the maximum-security Ely State Prison, there has been no staff doctor to handle the medical needs of any the 1,000 inmates here for more than 18 months. Carter is the highest-ranking medical worker at the men’s prison; the last staff doctor was a gynecologist.
According to interviews and records obtained by the Times, prisoners at Ely have been denied care for heart problems, diabetes and other serious medical conditions. Attorneys for some inmates say they believe the lack of medical care has played a role in a high percentage of death row inmates giving up their appeals and “volunteering” to be executed. All but two of 12 inmates executed in the state in the last 30 years have been volunteers. No other state in the country has had close to that percentage of volunteers. The American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project has taken up the inmates’ cause. A doctor working with the ACLU said this week that “the medical care provided at Ely State Prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered in my 35 years of practice.”