Over 6,000 Pennsylvania inmates infected with Hepatitis-C are currently being denied life-saving medication due to the high cost of treatment, under the guise of a “treatment protocol” that is only treating four inmates. Besides the fact that the state’s Department of Corrections (PA DOC) is blatantly ignoring their prisoners’ eighth amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, refusing to treat these prisoners will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
According to the PA DOC protocol for treatment of prisoners with critical Hep-C infections, to qualify for treatment you must have deteriorated past the point of no return. These criteria include: “advance cirrhosis or >60% chance of developing cirrhosis, decompensation such as jaundice or encephalopathy, and varices of the esophagus.” Under these guidelines, a prisoner could have Hep-C-induced diabetes, a cirrhotic liver, or encephalopathy and still be denied the treatment if varices (blood vessels that are ready to burst) are not found in the prisoner’s throat. This would then prolong the treatment process for three years until their next endoscopy, if they survive the torturous and deadly symptoms until that time.
At first glance, the $85,000 price tag of the Hep-C treatment that is roughly 95% effective at curing the disease can be intimidating. However, left untreated, these actively infected inmates cost the taxpayers much more than that. Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of Pennsylvania’s many actively infected prisoners has cost the state over $100,000 in the past few months alone for medical expenses directly related to his underlying Hep-C infection. While dumping the taxpayer’s money into the outside medical contractors pockets to keep these ill prisoners “alive,” the PA DOC has ignored the cheaper, more humane option of curing the primary disease.
Dave Lindorff, an investigative journalist, covered this story for This Can’t Be Happening, an independent news source. As of March 26, 2016, there has been no corporate news coverage of this story.
Source: Dave Lindorff , “PA Prison System Admits Secret ‘Protocol’ Denies Hep-C Treatment to All But Prisoners Near Death,” This Can’t Be Happening, January 1, 2016, http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/2976.
Student Researcher: Tony Zarza (Citrus College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)