Skip to Content

Mumia faces possible second death sentence

Abu-Jamal’s case illustrates widespread neglect of prisoners’ health nationwide

The third in a three-part series on Mumia Abu-Jamal's fight to force the Pennsylvania prison system to treat his active Hep-C infection, and that of thousands of other infected state inmates, and on the raging Hepatitis-C epidemic in the nation's prisons. (Click here for Part I or here for Part II)
Seattle, WA – Physicians are held to professional expectations dictating that the failure to provide standard healthcare is malpractice. There is no difference between failing to provide a service and performing a liable medical mistake.

A recent study revealed that out of the top three reasons why OBGYN physicians are sued for malpractice, two of them are related to inaction: 1) delays in intervention when there are signs of fetal distress and 2) the improper management of pregnancy including failing to test for fetal abnormalities when indicated, failure to address complications of pregnancy, and the failure to address abnormal findings. As a family medicine physician, I have been warned countless of times that one of the most common lawsuits relates to not identifying cases of skin cancer. In each of the instances, an inaction that results in a patient not receiving standard care is considered malpractice.

Given that not providing standard of care is malpractice, Mumia has been a victim of malpractice at the hands of the prison health system in two major areas:
• Even though Hepatitis C treatment is not always required, the failure to provide it for Mr. Abu-Jamal would be medical negligence. By even the most conservative standards, he meets criteria for treatment.
• Failing to treat his elevated blood sugars until he was unconscious is clear malpractice and gross negligence.

Unfortunately, Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case is not an isolated incident. Across the country inmates are not only being denied necessary Hepatitis C treatment, but they are also being denied other basic healthcare needs.  

In Part A of this piece we will explore Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case for seeking Hepatitis C treatment, as well as the nationwide negligence in Hepatitis C treatment in prisons.

The discussion of Hepatitis C treatment seems complicated at first glance. In the past, in addition to being costly, treatments for Hepatitis C also took months, typically had very uncomfortable side effects, and had a poor success rate. Additionally the sense of urgency to treat can be ambiguous. On one hand it is one of the highest causes of cirrhosis, or liver failure, in the United States. On the other hand, it can take decades to cause this damage. Because of these nuances, treatment was not previously universally recommended by physicians or sought after by patients.

story | by Dr. Radut