In December 2004, as fellow inmates listened helplessly, a 19-year-old prison inmate at the Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, N.Y., suffered repeated seizures on the floor of his cell for two days and two nights without receiving medical attention.
A state medical board later concluded that the inmate, a Mexican national named Christopher Campos, died because one of the prison's infirmary staff didn't understand his diagnosis and then denied him his prescribed medication.
Now, nearly four years later, the physician's assistant responsible for Campos' care, Louise Tichnor, has pleaded no contest to two charges of medical misconduct, including "gross negligence" and "gross incompetence." Tichnor has been suspended from the profession for three years and is also permanently barred from working in a correctional facility for the remainder of her career.
In a January 25, 2006 cover story, "Cruel and Unusual: Dying in Solitary in a New York Prison," Seven Days profiled the case of Campos, who was serving a 1-to-3-year sentence on felony assault charges. According to state records, he had a well-documented history of seizures dating back to the age of 6. In fact, during his brief incarceration, Campos had been a frequent patient at the Albany Medical Center.
According to a consent order filed several weeks ago with the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct, Tichnor wrongly assumed that Campos' diagnosis, known as "pseudoseizures," meant "fake seizures" and thus denied him his anti-seizure medication.
At the time, a representative for the New York State Department of Correctional Services described the case as "tragic and unfortunate," but also as an isolated incident.
Plattsburgh-based Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, which first learned of the incident, says the Campos tragedy highlights similar shortcomings in the level of medical services provided in the New York correctional system, including the severe shortage of Spanish-speaking medical staff.