Report Reveals Disturbing Truth of Dangerous and Extremely Poor Conditions for HIV and AIDS Prisoners
August 26, 2003
Harvest, Ala. -- On Wednesday, Dr. Stephen Tabet, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist, released a detailed 125-page report addressing a large number of deaths and "substandard" medical care provided to HIV and AIDS infected male prisoners confined at Limestone Correctional Facility. The report was filed as an expert opinion in the federal lawsuit of Leatherwood, et. al. v. Campbell, et. al. a case that challenges the inadequate medical treatment and living conditions for HIV and AIDS prisoners at Limestone.
The report provides a graphic portrayal of 38 HIV prisoner deaths since 1999; an examination of numerous HIV prisoners currently confined at the facility; and a tour of the physical facilities used to house the HIV prisoners.
"The medical treatment and living conditions experienced by our clients is completely unacceptable, unconstitutional and appalling," stated David Lipman, attorney for the class of HIV prisoners at Limestone.
Since 1999, 38 HIV prisoners have died at Limestone. Dr. Tabets report concludes that "[I]n almost all instances the death was preceded by a failure to provide proper medical care or treatment." Almost all of the 38 HIV deaths were caused by "preventable illnesses." In fact, "[P]atients with serious diseases experienced serious delays in medical care or were not treated at all." One HIV prisoner "had such severe pneumonia that he suffocated in front of the medical staff -- despite the patient's requests for treatment, he was not sent to a hospital until his condition was irreversible." Dr. Tabet's report concludes that "the most egregious medical failure at Limestone is the number of preventable deaths."
In addition, the report details his personal examination of numerous HIV and AIDS infected prisoners on February 12 and 13, 2003. During the HIV prisoner examinations, Dr. Tabet discovered instances of patients not receiving medical treatment for potentially life threatening illnesses -- such as cryptococcal meningitis and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP); accessibility for handicapped HIV prisoners being "disregarded and neglected"; and evidence of a "recent widespread outbreak of staphylococcal skin infections.
Dr. Tabet also examined the overcrowded open warehouse where the HIV infected prisoners are housed. In his report, Dr. Tabet finds that the "[S]ide-by-side and head-to-toe bunk arrangements place these immune compromised patients and the staff at an undue risk of acquiring contagious diseases."
Dr. Tabet's report has been filed in the Northern District Court of Alabama. Dr. Tabet has been retained by the lawyers representing the class of HIV prisoners confined at Limestone. Trial has been scheduled before Federal District Court Judge Karon Bowdre after January 15, 2004. Earlier, in February 2003, Alabama Department of Correction's own auditors -- Jacqueline Moore and Associates -- found similar medical and living conditions.
Attorney Lipman continues, 'The state of Alabama has failed to provide even a basic, humane level of medical care for our clients. Dr. Tabet's findings parallel the previous findings found by Alabama Department of Correction's own auditors, Jacqueline Moore and Associates. We seek Federal Court intervention as the state of Alabama has forfeited their right to provide medical care."
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This article was provided by Southern Center for Human Rights.