Will Pennsylvania Ruling Affect Other Inmates’ Lawsuits over Hepatitis C Treatment?

FEDERAL JUDGE RULES INMATE’S EIGHTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS MUST BE UPHELD BY MEDICAL TREATMENT

by Sharon Rondeau

(Jan. 5, 2017) — In a ruling issued on Tuesday, a federal judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania wrote that an inmate diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2015 should receive treatment for the disease from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections regardless of the cost.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani determined that pending the results of a physical exam, convicted police officer murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal should be provided with an expensive new medication called “DDA” for treatment of his diagnosed Hepatitis C.

Several news outlets have reported that an individual course of treatment with the new drug is estimated to be between $84,000 and $90,000.

Other less expensive drugs exist for the treatment of Hepatitis C, to which Abu-Jamal was reportedly also denied access.

Hepatitis C damages the liver and can prove fatal.

In September, Mariani had ruled against Abu-Jamal based on a technicality in the named defendants in the lawsuit, after which an amended complaint was filed on his behalf. A writer covering an evidentiary hearing in the case in December 2015 reported that at the time, there were approximately 10,000 inmates in Pennsylvania with Hepatitis C.

On Wednesday, CBS in Philadelphia reported the number to be approximately 5,000.

Attorneys for Abu-Jamal claimed that his Eighth Amendment right to avoid “cruel and unusual punishments” was violated by the state Department of Corrections (DOC)’s refusal to administer him treatment for the condition, with which Mariani agreed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ protocol had reportedly required a Hepatitis C sufferer to exhibit more serious symptoms before receiving medical treatment.

Inmates in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Tennessee have filed federal lawsuits seeking a similar ruling to that which Abu-Jamal just received.

The Post & Email has received letters from a number of Tennessee inmates stating that they are infected with the Hepatitis C virus and are not receiving treatment.

Reports have surfaced that in Massachusetts and Tennessee, routine testing of inmates for Hepatitis C is not conducted.  Last May 7, Dave Boucher of The Tennessean reported that “only eight of the 3,487 inmates known to have hepatitis C in Tennessee are receiving medicine that can cure the disease.”

The Pennsylvania DOC may appeal the ruling.

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