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July 18, 2011

"Colorado inmate sues prison for saving his life"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece in the Denver Post (Hat tip: How Appealing).  Here is how it begins:

Convicted murderer Daniel Self has sued Sterling Correctional Facility, claiming that prison guards disregarded a do-not-resuscitate directive when they saved his life.  It's not that he isn't grateful, he said.  That's not even the point.

"I've been wrongfully convicted and called a baby-killer.  Death would be welcome relief," Self said during an interview in a concrete visitor's room rimmed with rolls of razor wire. "Even if you die, they drag your ass back to prison."

From the 54-year-old's perspective, damages in his case are accruing "a million dollars" every day that he must live in the hell that is prison.   "Maybe it's a million dollars a minute," he said.

Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, said the state has not been served with Self's lawsuit and that she could not comment about the case because it is in litigation.

Self's attorney, Brett Lampiasi, recently filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Denver, claiming prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Self's right to refuse medical treatment.

Self's plight, he said, became more intolerable after he broke his wrist in a fall from his bunk and doctors botched an operation, leaving him in constant pain with a deformed wrist, the suit says.   He went eight months before corrective surgery was performed, the suit claims, and he was not given prescribed pain medications.

Before he went to prison, Self lived in Colorado Springs and set up lighting for live band performances at nightclubs.  He was convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend, Leah Kathleen Gee, 24, in March 2003.  Gee was pregnant.  He claims that she shot herself.

July 18, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Permalink


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While the claim for damages is ridiculous on it's face there may be an interesting legal issue about not honoring his DNR. On the other hand is seems reasonable that when responding to an emergency that he was not breathing staff may not have had time to check. Could a color coded sign on his cell door have worked? Like the McDonalds coffee case this seems ridiculous at first pass but when and if the facts are developed who knows - the actual facts of the coffee case made the lawsuit and verdict, after remittitur, seem very reasonable.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 12:32:39 PM

And I would say that prisoners should simply be in a DNR situation regardless of whether they would want such treatment or not. That should simply be one of the risks attendent with being incarcerated.

I do wonder how you go from a broken wrist to needing to be resuscitated, however.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 18, 2011 12:44:36 PM

The article in the Denver Post has more alleged facts. You raise a curious point, Soronel, that gives new meaning to "collateral consequences" in a plea soliloquy. Would a state or federal law that required DNR for those convicted of crimes and imprisoned be constitutional? There are several constitutional arguments that come to mind but I await the brain trust on this blog to sort out the merits.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 2:15:04 PM

is this settled law? Wrongful life is not a basis for tort liability? Or if it was, damages were limited to special damages, such as the value of having a new handicap as a result of being resuscitated, and not general pain or suffering, especially not psychic pain?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 18, 2011 3:11:01 PM

Steve Prof,

Note that I would say the proposed rule should only apply while the convict is actually incarcerated. Also that it should only apply to convicts and not those held pretrial, for example, or those held in civil custody.

I would say this because by the time resuscitation is indicated the person is dead and the state shouldn't have a duty to save, or even attempt to save, someone from that circumstance. Any duty of providing medical care terminates at the same moment the person dies.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 18, 2011 4:17:36 PM

now me i have to laugh about it! But what i found very interesting is every after all this and upon RETURNING from DEATH he still says this!

""I've been wrongfully convicted and called a baby-killer. Death would be welcome relief," Self said during an interview in a concrete visitor's room rimmed with rolls of razor wire. "Even if you die, they drag your ass back to prison.""

you got to admit that one's a good one. your in jail for murder and probalby have a LWOP sentence and you can't even DIE to escape!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 18, 2011 5:05:04 PM

I think it is a huge leap to jump from the statement in the article that he was not breathing to a conclusion that he was "dead." And that is really sweet of Soronel not to apply the forced and compelled DNR on folks that have yet to be tried ....giving new force to the presumption of guilty.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 6:59:13 PM

The complaint states only an 8th amendment claim, not a due process claim.

Posted by: Gray Proctor | Jul 20, 2011 9:01:46 AM

I think you are truly not pronounced dead until you are 6 feet under or likewise.

Anything other than that, you are fair game and still around.

Posted by: orange county latina escort | Jan 3, 2012 12:29:38 PM

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