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U.S. News

Georgia: Lawsuit Takes State Prisons to Task for Hepatitis C Treatment

October 24, 2005

Winston K. Goforth, who is serving a 10-year drug sentence at the Georgia Men's State Prison in Hardwick, tested positive for hepatitis C in April 2001. In March 2002, he filed a pauper's lawsuit in US District Court in Macon seeking to force the state to treat him for the disease. This year, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Goforth had been denied access to his medical records. In May, the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) took up his case. This month, US Magistrate Claude Hicks reopened the discovery process, permitting lawyers to take depositions and examine medical records.

Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesperson Peggy Chapman said, in an e-mail, that hepatitis C treatments are about 40 percent effective, and the strain of the virus in Georgia prisons is very resistant to treatment. "The consequence of these medical facts is that practitioners must consider the odds very carefully with their patients, balancing the likelihood of a failure versus the possibility of ongoing liver damage for untreated patients," she wrote.

In his filing, Goforth contends he was denied treatment because he has cirrhosis and might be paroled before he completes treatment. But his lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of SCHR, said the cirrhosis has not progressed to a point at which treatment would not help. In addition, she noted that Federal Bureau of Prisons guidelines say hepatitis C patients with cirrhosis should be considered "priority candidates for treatment."

Madie Lamarre, a nurse practitioner and former clinical services manager in the office of health services for the Georgia prison system, said prison tattooing often spreads hepatitis C. She called on prison systems to consider offering sterile settings for prison tattooing, and she noted that providing condoms could help slow the spread of hepatitis B and HIV in prisons.

Back to other news for October 24, 2005

Adapted from:
Macon Telegraph
10.21.05; Don Schanche Jr.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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