[Pnews] Appellate Court Panel Rejects PA Prison Effort to Further Delay Hep-C Treatment for Ailing Mumia Abu-Jamal

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 30 10:25:43 EDT 2017


  Appellate Court Panel Rejects PA Prison Effort to Further Delay Hep-C
  Treatment for Ailing Mumia Abu-Jamal

by:  Dave Lindorff - March 29, 2017

Challenging a ‘Nazi Prison Camp Standard of Care’

It has been almost five years since doctors working for the Pennsylvania 
Department of Corrections, taking a routine blood test on long-time 
prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal (who was in the process of being transferred 
from 29 years on the state’s death-row to a general population prison 
following a lengthy appeals process that ultimately overturned his death 
penalty on constitutional grounds), and discovered he had contracted a 
Hepatitis C infection.

There was no follow-up of that test to see if his Hep-C had become an 
active and thus life-threatening infection until July of 2015 -- a 
period of three years -- and then that “follow-up” came only after he 
had collapsed in prison on May 30 of that year and been rushed out of 
the prison to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with serious case of 
diabetes. That’s when he was finally tested to see if he had a Hepatic C 
viral load in his blood (he did).

As Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center in 
Pennsylvania, and Abu-Jamal’s attorney in a case seeking to force the 
DOC to provide the current Center for Disease Control-recommended 
medicine that has a 90% cure rate for the disease, says, “In all that 
time, right down to the present, the DOC has not provided any treatment 
for Mumia. Whether his active infection is doing further damage -- 
fibrosis or even cirrhosis of the liver or other damage to him -- we 
don’t know. But he clearly is at greater and greater risk of serious 
health damage the longer this non-treatment goes on. (During a hearing 
last year before Judge Mariani, a DOC doctor testified under cross 
examination that there was a “63% chance” that Abu-Jamal already had 
cirrhosis, meaning that his liver is already being irreversibly damaged 
by the progressive disease.)

The good news is that the latest stalling effort by the DOC -- an appeal 
to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia of an injunction by 
a federal district judge in Scranton ordering the state to start 
treating Abu-Jamal with the latest approved Hep-C medication, and a 
request for a stay of that federal district judge’s treatment order 
until the appellate court panel has a chance to hear the arguments in 
the case -- was rejected by the three-judge panel.

As Grote says, “That’s a good sign because it means that the judges, who 
will be considering the appeal of District Judge (Robert) Mariani’s 
injunction, are saying they do not believe that the DOC is likely to win 
its case. But their ruling doesn’t mean Mumia is getting treated. He’s not.”

He says that next move for Abu-Jamal’s legal team will be to file a 
petition for the Judge Mariani to hold the DOC in contempt, ordering 
immediate treatment to begin, in compliance with his preliminary 
injunction issued Jan. 3, 2017.

If Judge Mariani takes that step, Abu-Jamal’s long-delayed treatment 
should finally begin, Grote says.

Grote has had harsh words for the State of Pennsylvania Department of 
Corrections’ non-treatment not just of his client, Abu-Jamal, who is 
serving a life-sentence without chance of parole for the murder of white 
police officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia back on Dec. 9, 1981, 
saying that the DOC’s “protocol for treatment” of Hep-C, which states 
that state-of-the-art medicines are only to be provided if prisoners 
show evidence of progression of the disease to a point that it has 
become imminently life threatening (the presence of advanced cirrhosis 
and esophageal varices), resembles a “Nazi death camp standard of care.”

The state, like many states across the country, does not want to have to 
provide the new medications, despite their remarkable proven success 
rate at clearing the disease from the body, because of the cost, 
currently estimated at about $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 the state, 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 

Abu-Jamal’s supporters around the world fear that Pennsylvania, under 
pressure from the powerful police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, 
which was long calling for the state to “fry Mumia!”, may be 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.

There is a chance that Abu-Jamal’s case could end up becoming very 
costly not just for the State of Pennsylvania, but for other states in 
the Third Circuit district too, including New Jersey and Delaware.

If Grote is right and the Third Circuit judges, in ruling to deny the 
DOC’s request for a stay of Mariani’s treatment order pending their 
hearing of their the department’s appeal is an indication that they 
don’t think the DOC has a strong case, and if they later rule in favor 
of Judge Mariani’s decision of last August that denial of the new 
medications constitutes an unconstitutional form of “cruel and unusual 
punishment,” it could result in an order to treat all infected prisoners 
in these states prisons.

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