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Federal Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Treat Mumia’s Hep-C

A win and a loss, at least for the time being

“The Court believes there is a sufficient basis in the record to find that DOC's current protocol may well constitute deliberate indifference in that, by its own terms, it delays treatment until an inmate's liver is sufficiently cirrhotic that a gastroenterologist determines, at the end of a lengthy, multi-step evaluation procedure taking place over a long period of time, that that inmate has esophageal varices. In the words of Dr. Noel, DOC's Chief of Clinical Services, the presence of these esophageal varices signifies that inmates have ‘pass[ed] ... into advanced disease, and ... are at risk for the varices rupturing and having a severe and critical bleed, because their platelet counts are low, so they don't clot very well, and you could have a catastrophe." (Findings of Fact, supra, 11 52; Noel Test., Dec. 23, 2015, at 112:10-23). In the Court's view, the effect of the protocol is to delay administration of DAA medications until the inmate faces the imminent prospect of ‘catastrophic’ rupture and bleeding out of the esophageal vessels. Additionally, by denying treatment until inmates have ‘advanced disease’ ... the interim protocol prolongs the suffering of those who have been diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C and allows the progression of the disease to accelerate so that it presents a greater threat of cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and death of the inmate with such disease. The protocol put forth by the Hepatitis C Treatment Review Committee exposes inmates in the care of DOC to these risks, despite knowing that the standard of care is to treat patients with chronic Hepatitis C with OM medications such as Harvoni or Sovaldi, regardless of the stage of disease.”
 

"Delilberate indifference" to the health of prison inmates would be an example of the "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Unfortunately, Judge Mariani also ruled that the named plaintiffs in Abu-Jamal’s lawsuit -- including John Kerestes, superintendent of SCI-Mahanoy, the prison where Abu-Jamal is incarcerated, and two senior prison officials, Christopher Oppman and John Steinert -- were for various reasons not the individuals who were responsible for deciding on granting or withholding Hep-C treatment. But he did make it clear that if the case added the members of the Hepatitis C Treatment panel, he would be ready to issue a ruling based on his findings concerning the current policy on non-treatment of the disease.

The irony is that the only reason Judge Mariani or anyone else knows today that there exists in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections a formal protocol for non-treatment of inmates with Hepatitis-C is that it was mentioned tangentially by an attorney for the Department of Corrections during a motion at last December’s hearing. When Abu-Jamal’s attorneys, on learning of its existence, immediately moved to have the document produced, the DOC attorney attempted to have the judge examine it in private and not to release it to Abu-Jamal or the public. The judge rejected that effort and demanded that the protocol document be immediately entered into the record.



story | by Dr. Radut