Due to medical advancements in the past decade, physicians can now cure Hepatitis C, which is a chronic liver disorder. However, the drug regime is extremely expensive, making it inaccessible to a significant percentage of the population that needs it, including prison inmates. Prisoners in California and numerous other states are fighting for access to the cure instead of relying on old and ineffective treatments, many of which have debilitating side effects.
What is Hep C?
Hep C is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. Many people do not exhibit symptoms for a long time, which delays diagnosis. When systems do present, people may experience stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and jaundice. People with Hep C may bruise and bleed easily. They could have fluid retention in their abdomen and swelling in their legs. The infection also may lead to confusion and slurred speech.
The infection is spread through blood and bodily fluids, which puts people at risk during sex, getting tattoos in shops not following health and safety protocols, and when sharing drugs and needles. It can pass from mother to child at birth. Also, some individuals contracted the virus from blood transfusions prior to 1992.
Over time, Hep C causes liver cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver, and cancer. It can cause liver failure, and it is one of the most common reasons individuals require liver transplants.
Without the cure, Hep C requires daily and/or weekly treatments to live with.
Class Action Suit Filed by Prisoners
Prisoners in California are fighting to receive the Hep C cure. 18 prisoners were named as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in February 2018. They are asking the court to require the prison health care system to prove inmates with Hep C the new drug on the basis that denying them the drug is harmful both to the inmates and society as a whole. As of January, 18,389 inmates have been diagnosed with the disease. By refusing to cure prisoners with the disease, others are at risk for infection.
Prisoner’s Have a Right to Medical Treatment
Whether or not the prisoners will succeed in their suit remains to be seen. Under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, prisons must provide inmates with adequate medical care. Not doing so would be cruel and unusual punishment. This means prisons are legally responsible for treating inmates’ health conditions, including Hep C.
If prisoners claim they are not receiving proper medical care while incarcerated, they must prove that prison officials have demonstrated a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. This deliberate indifference means officials have shown a reckless disregard for a substantial risk of harm to an inmate. This is more than negligence, which can be viewed as carelessness. Deliberate indifference means the officials know the risk to prisoners and are ignoring it anyway.
Is Your Loved One Being Denied Medical Care?
If you have a loved one currently incarcerated in California who is being denied necessary medical treatments, contact a San Francisco civil rights attorney at Brod Law Firm today. An attorney can review your relative’s situation and determine his or her legal rights and options.
(image courtesy of Miguel A Ramirez)