14:23, August 29 278 0 theguardian.com

2017-08-29 14:23:03
Prisoners being failed over their rights to decent healthcare

As an inquest lawyer, I wholeheartedly endorse the concerns of doctors set out in Diane Taylor’s article (Prison healthcare so bad it would be shut down on outside, say doctors, 23 August). The number of prison deaths is increasing year on year, and most have a health component to them, whether physical or mental. Limiting access to healthcare is a cruel form of mistreatment, and has no conceivable legal justification. It can only aggravate the high rates of suicide, violence and drug abuse in prisons, and so long as it continues we will witness the scandal of preventable deaths.

Article 3 of the European convention on human rights prohibits “inhuman and degrading treatment”. Both European and domestic UK courts have developed the law so it protects the individual’s right to treatment. This is in addition to the rights prisoners share with everyone not to suffer negligence from doctors or from prisons, which have a duty to provide transport and escorts for hospital appointments.

This is not a matter of economising on costs. The number of prison inquests is spiralling, as are expensive inquiries into the cause of such deaths, which cause huge emotional damage to the prisoner’s family. It would not be difficult to design a system which ensured breaches of the right to proper medical treatment were no longer widespread.

Daniel Machover

Hickman & Rose, London

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