PA Dept. of Corrections Tells Court It Will Finally Treat Mumia Hep-C infection, But Only Because DOC Neglect has Caused Cirrhosis
Pennsylvania, like many states across the country, does not want to have to provide the new medications, now produced by several major drug firms, despite their remarkable proven success rate at clearing the disease from the body, because of the cost, currently estimated at about $50-80,000 per person treated. The DOC admits that as many as 5400 of its prison inmates have active Hep-C cases like Abu-Jamal’s, with only perhaps as many as 1% of them receiving the medications. (Critics argue states, by bargaining as a bulk buyer, could surely obtain the medication much more cheaply than that quoted retail price, just as insurance companies reach deals to obtain costly patented medications for other diseases at sharp discounts from retail price. They also point out that hospitalizations of Hep-C infected inmates for the many ailments they suffer as the disease progresses, can cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars per prisoner -- far more than the cost of curing them with the new medications on the market.)
Abu-Jamal’s supporters around the world believe that Pennsylvania, under pressure from the powerful police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which was long calling for the state to “fry Mumia!”, has been trying to “execute” him by medical neglect now that the courts have ruled that it no longer can execute him for a conviction at a trial that, fraught with examples of judicial, prosecutorial and police misconduct and perjured evidence by prosecution witnesses, remains highly controversial.
Grote says that the Third Circuit panel's decision last week denying the DOC's request for a stay of the lower court's injunction was an indication that the panel's judges "didn't think the DOC was likely to win its case against providing treatment."
If he is right and the Third Circuit judges, in ruling to deny the DOC’s request for a stay of Judge Mariani’s treatment order pending their hearing of their the department’s appeal is an indication that they were likely to rule eventually in favor the lower court decision of last August that denial of the new medications constitutes an unconstitutional form of “cruel and unusual punishment,” the DOC may have made a strategic decision here. They may have decided to cave on this particur case so as to avoid ending up with an appellate court ruling that could be used to compel the DOC to start providing the costly antiviral drugs to all state prisoners with active Hepatitis-C infections.
Given that the Pennsylvania DOC does not want to be compelled to provide the costly anti-viral medication to thousands of the state's incarcerated inmates, it is of course possible that this claim that Abu-Jamal has now developed cirrhosis is false and is simply being used by the DOC as an excuse to allow it to back out of a case that was going badly for the state. It may all be an effort to deny ending up with a Third Circuit ruling that could lead to prisoners in the whole area covered by the Third Circuit, which would include Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, to have to start offering treatment infected inmates in their prisons.
Meanwhile Abu-Jamal's attorneys are remaining skeptical about the DOC's assertion in its latest court filing that it is planning to start providing the needed anti-viral meds to their client until it actually happens.