Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.
That’s how the New Orleans Times-Picayne introduced its gripping series on Louisiana’s prisons last May.
Now comes more bad news.
Of the 15 doctors working full-time at Louisiana state prisons, nearly two-thirds have been disciplined by Louisiana’s medical board for issues ranging from pedophilia to substance abuse.
Here’s more from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Louisiana state prisons appear to be dumping grounds for doctors who are unable to find employment elsewhere because of their checkered pasts, raising troubling moral questions as well as the specter of an accident waiting to happen. At stake is the health of nearly 19,000 prisoners who are among the most vulnerable of patients because they have no health care options.
About 60 percent of the state’s prison doctors have disciplinary records, compared with 2 percent of the state’s 16,000 or so licensed medical doctors, according to data from the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. The medical board is aware of the prison pipeline — in fact, a board-employed headhunter has sometimes helped problem doctors get prison gigs.
Here’s an example of one of those doctors: Dr. Randy Lavespere, who is the assistant medical director at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, spent two years in prison for purchasing $8,000 worth of crystal meth from an informant. His medical license was reinstated in October 2009 on the condition that he practice in an “institutional, prison or other structured setting.”
Another former New Orleans doctor accused of unprofessional conduct with female patients now practices at this all-male prison.
So Louisiana is taking the state’s lowest-quality physicians, with criminal records and problems with how they deliver medicine, and having them practice with one of the state’s most vulnerable populations, who have no choice in the matter.
Maybe it’s time to revisit that policy, which is both unethical and dangerous?
What do you think?
Photo Credit: istock
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