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Jury to decide if doctor was deliberately indifferent

Where the parties disputed whether a doctor acknowledged the detainee had a serious medical need to have his blood glucose level checked and insulin administered before meals, and that he knew that failing to do so posed a substantial risk of serious harm to the detainee, a jury will decide if the doctor violated the detainee’s civil rights.

Background

Dylan McGlothlin, a Virginia Department of Corrections detainee, has filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, against Tracy Mathena, alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights under were violated. This case is before the court on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment.

Analysis

McGlothlin argues that Dr. Mathena’s failure, prior to June 29, 2021, to order that McGlothlin’s blood glucose level be checked and insulin be administered before lunch each day amounted to deliberate indifference to McGlothlin’s serious medical need as a Type 1 insulin dependent diabetic. Dr. Mathena argues that his treatment of McGlothlin’s Type 1 diabetes was based on his medical judgment and posed no injury or serious risk of injury to McGlothlin.

The undisputed facts before the court show that Dr. Mathena was not aware of McGlothlin’s request to have his blood glucose level checked before lunch until he saw McGlothlin for a chronic care appointment on April 26, 2021. While McGlothlin has presented undisputed evidence that he made numerous requests of the prison’s medical staff for this change prior to April 26, 2021, none of these requests were responded to by Dr. Mathena, and Dr. Mathena has stated that he was unaware of any of these earlier requests until McGlothlin filed suit against him. 

The undisputed facts also show that Dr. Mathena did not grant McGlothlin’s request at that time, but he did request that McGlothlin be seen by an endocrinologist to assist with management of his Type 1 diabetes due to his blood glucose levels being very erratic. There is no evidence before the court that Dr. Mathena saw McGlothlin again until June 29, 2021, the date on which both parties agree that Dr. Mathena approved McGlothlin’s request to have his blood glucose level checked and insulin administered prior to the lunch meal.

Dr. Mathena also has provided evidence, which McGlothlin has not disputed, that he approved a change in McGlothlin’s insulin regimen on May 25, 2021, ordering that McGlothlin receive three units of insulin three times a day, in addition to any medically necessary insulin, based on a sliding scale value associated with McGlothlin’s blood glucose level. Dr. Mathena also ordered and reviewed an A1c test for McGlothlin in June 2021.

McGlothlin has not provided the court with any expert medical evidence to establish that he suffered from any adverse medical consequences or injury as a result of the timing of his blood glucose tests or insulin administration. McGlothlin, however, has offered evidence of statements by Dr. Mathena that, if believed by a jury, could show that Dr. Mathena knew that his refusal to alter the timing of McGlothlin’s blood glucose tests and insulin administration posed a substantial risk of serious harm to McGlothlin. 

In particular, McGlothlin offered evidence that, at his June 29, 2021, appointment with Dr. Mathena, Dr. Mathena told him, “I know you need your Diabetic checks at Lunch time. I’ve been trying to wait for you to see an Endocrinologist first before I adjust your schedule.” According to McGlothlin, he replied, “You know exactly what an Endocrinologist is going to say. They’ll more than likely think you’re crazy for not already granting my need and tell you how dangerous and catastrophic it is to my health.” 

According to McGlothlin, Dr. Mathena replied, “You’re right. I will move your Diabetic checks to 5 AM, 10:30 AM and 3 PM.” A jury could find that Dr. Mathena’s statement, “You’re right” was an acknowledgment by Dr. Mathena that McGlothlin had a serious medical need to have his blood glucose level checked and insulin administered before meals and that he knew that failing to do so posed a substantial risk of serious harm to McGlothlin. Thus, evidence of this statement creates a genuine issue of material fact precluding the entry of summary judgment in favor of either party.

Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment denied. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment denied. 

McGlothlin v. Mathena, Case No. 7:21-cv-00377, Aug. 25, 2022. WDVA at Roanoke (Sargent). VLW 022-3-370. 22 pp.

VLW 022-3-370

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