CARSON CITY – A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a Nevada death row inmate who alleges the state prison system’s refusal to approve his hip replacement surgery violated his civil rights.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 69-year-old John Snow has the right to show a jury he should have been allowed the surgery.
Snow was sentenced to death for the 1983 contract killing of Las Vegas nightclub owner Harry Wham. He was paid $5,000 by the victim’s wife, Peggy Wham, who received a 20-year term.
Snow has been battling to get the surgery since 2007, when doctors diagnosed him with degenerative hip disease in both legs, the Nevada Appeal reported.
According to the court’s opinion issued this week, a series of doctors examined Snow from 2007 to 2010 and recommended hip replacements. They noted he could hardly walk.
But the prison system’s Utilization Review Panel, which includes the medical director, decided Snow could be treated with prescription drugs and surgery was not needed. The panel’s approval is required before any medical procedures in the system can go forward.
Prison officials now say that Snow could not have had the surgery due to heart problems at the time.
The federal appeals court’s decision, written by Judge Betty Fletcher, said there were issues to be decided at trial, including whether the review panel and Ely State Prison officials delayed or intentionally interfered with a medically acceptable course of treatment.
The court sided with Snow’s lawyers, who claimed there was substantial evidence to support a claim of deliberate indifference to Snow’s medical needs.