We have all complained at least once in our lives that going to the dentist is torture. For New Jersey triple-murderer Craig Szemple, he may not have been over-exaggerating.
Szemple, the New Jersey man convicted of killing his boyhood friend and two others, alleges state prison officials ignored his health problems and a prison dentist "tortured" him in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Although a lower federal court dismissed his lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections because he only at most pleaded a case of medical malpractice, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned its decision, stating that Szemple's complaints - although unproven - "goes beyond a claim of mere negligence."
Due to the nature of his allegations, the court determined he adequately proved that he was prevented from receiving necessary medical attention and deserved the opportunity to bring evidence of his alleged dentist appointment from hell to a federal court.
"There are factual allegations ... that support a plausible claim of deliberate indifference to Szemple's medical needs," the Third Circuit stated.
Szemple alleges that a prison dentist extracted a tooth using only Novocain to dull the pain, unnecessarily pulled another filling, and severed a blood vessel under his tongue. He later required a blood transfusion for the injuries to his tongue.
The case was remanded back to federal district court where Craig Szemple will have his opportunity to produce evidence of the "torture" he suffered.
If a dentist can make a triple murderer squirm, perhaps your fears of getting your teeth cleaned aren't so far-fetched.
- Szemple v. University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (Google Scholar)
- Parzyck v. Prison Health Servs. (FindLaw's Eleventh Circuit blog)
- FindLaw's Third Circuit blog (FindLaw)