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General News    H3'ed 9/8/16

A win and a loss for now: Fed Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in PA's Refusal to Treat Mumia's Hep-C

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Depending on how you look at it, lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia journalist and political prisoner serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison after a controversial 1982 conviction for killing a white Philadelphia police officer, won a huge victory, lost big or maybe won and will win again soon.

His victory, a finding issued on Sept. 1 in Scranton, PA by Federal District Judge Robert Mariani that the state's Department of Corrections "protocol" for treatment -- actually for non-treatment -- of inmates with deadly Hepatitis C cases, violates the US Constitution's Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, if upheld on appeal at the Appellate Court level, could open the door for thousands of the state's inmates with Hep-C to receive the latest highly effective but extremely costly medicines that could eradicate the virus from their bodies. It could also serve as a powerful precedent to win such treatment for the tens of thousands of infected inmates in the sprawling web of other local, state and federal prisons across the entire US who are currently being denied care for what has been called a prison epidemic of Hepatitis C.

Abu-Jamal's loss, on a minor and correctable technicality, means that his own raging Hep-C infection, first discovered over a year ago, will continue to go untreated with those medications, meaning his liver will continue to suffer further irreversible damage from the disease -- damage that could, if allowed to continue untreated, amount to an extrajudicial execution despite his having already had his original death sentence overturned as unconstitutional.

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Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, an anti-death penalty organization, filed the lawsuit on Abu-Jamal's behalf in August 2015 seeking a preliminary injunction to force the DOC to provide life-saving new anti-viral drugs to him to treat and cure the Hep-C wracking his body. He says that the reason the judge gave for denying that request was that the suit had not properly named the individuals in the Department of Corrections responsible for determining whether a prisoner would or would not receive treatment.

Grote said that the judge did say who the parties are that would have to be included in an amended filing of the suit, and that if those names are added, he could rule on the request for an injunction requiring treatment. "We had the health care director for the DIC and the former head too," says Grote. "Our position was that they were and are responsible for implementing any treatment guidelines. But the Judge said that we should have included the members of the prison system's Hepatitis C Treatment Committee." He adds, "We will be getting the new papers filed as expeditiously as possible." Grote says one motion was already filed weeks ago adding one member of the treatment committee, Dr. Paul Noel, the DOC's chief of clinical services. A decision on that amendment to the injunction filing is pending...

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For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the uncompromised, collectively run, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/3280

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 
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