Mumia Abu-Jamal files suit over prison’s refusal to provide medical care

From: Abolitionist Law Center

Untreated diabetes nearly killed Abu-Jamal in March, and the DOC is refusing to treat his active Hepatitis C.

August 3, 2015: Attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an amended lawsuit yesterday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court to challenge prison medical staff’s denial of necessary medical treatment – denial that nearly killed Abu-Jamal earlier this year.

See Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint and the Amended Complaint.
On March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Although prison medical staff were aware that Abu-Jamal had a dangerously high blood glucose level of 419 on March 6, they failed to treat, monitor, or even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition. Glucose levels like those that Abu-Jamal had can result in diabetic shock, diabetic coma, and death.

Abu-Jamal’s diabetic shock came in the midst of an escalating year-long health crisis that began with a rash in August 2014. The skin condition grew in intensity over the course of the next several months, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that is resistant to conventional treatments. The skin condition is abnormal in its duration and intensity, and has led to lesions, open wounds, and swelling.

The lawsuit filed yesterday seeks injunctive relief for prison medical staff’s failure to treat Abu-Jamal’s active Hepatitis C. Recent blood tests provided at the insistence of Abu-Jamal, his lawyers, and consulting doctors have confirmed that Abu-Jamal has active Hepatitis C, which has likely been the underlying cause of his health crisis. Despite the undeniable medical evidence that he is in need of treatment for his Hepatitis C, prison medical staff is refusing to provide any.

Advances in Hepatitis C treatment in recent years have revolutionized the way the disease is treated, with new direct-acting anti-viral medications that have had over 95% success rates in curing the illness in clinical trials. The medications, however, are extraordinarily expensive in the United States due to monopoly pricing practices by the pharmaceutical companies that have patented them.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has yet to promulgate a new protocol for treating Hepatitis C with the new medications, meaning that the estimated 10,000-plus people in DOC custody who have Hepatitis C are not receiving any treatment.

This issue is the subject of a class action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania federal court in June 2015.

Abu-Jamal is represented by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and Robert J. Boyle of New York City.

Updated Action Alert for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sunday, May 17:

The following is a statement released by: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, International Action Center, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia once again taken to hospital outside SCI Mahanoy; held incommunicado from family, attorneys and doctor.  We need to act now!

Political prisoner and internationally renowned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal has once again been taken from the prison infirmary at SCI Mahonoy in Frackville , Pa. this time to Geisinger Medical Center in Dansville , Pa. about 3 hours from Philadelphia .

Having received no phone calls from Mumia, including on Mothers’ Day when he always calls, Mumia’s wife Wadiya Jamal called the prison infirmary on Tuesday, May 12 and learned of the transfer.  Since then Mumia has been out of communication with his immediate family and doctor, despite the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ obligation and agreement to keep Mrs. Jamal informed of his medical condition.

State regulations also prohibit prison officials from blocking attorney’s access to their clients however visits by his attorneys have also been denied.

On Wednesday, May 13 Wadiya was told that immediate family visitation was approved by Superintendent John Kerestes and the DOC.  This was confirmed by Laura Neal of the DOC Legal Counsel’s office.

Wadiya prepared to visit Mumia at the hospital on Wednesday, May 13, however she was then told by Neal that Geisinger Hospital would not permit the visit because Mumia was not in critical condition and the hospital has a policy of not allowing visits to prisoners.

Mumia’s family and attorneys have been given conflicting reports that updates on his medical condition were released to authorities at SCI Mahonoy.  Wadiya was told repeatedly by medical officials at SCI Mahonoy that no medical updates were given to them.  However Donald Zaycosky, Litigation Counsel at Geisinger told Rachel Wolkenstein, an attorney representing Wadiya Jamal, that a medical update had been provided to infirmary doctors on Thursday, May 14.

Wolkenstein reported that on Friday May 15, Zaycosky stated that under the circumstances an exception could be made to the hospital’s “no visitors” policy.  He explicitly stated that Geisinger did not object to phone calls or family or legal visitation, but wanted to make sure it was OK with the DOC.

On 9:30am Friday, May 15, Wolkenstein forwarded Zaycosky her correspondence with Laura Neal that stated the DOC approved family visitation.  Since then, despite phone calls and emails, there has been no communication from either the prison infirmary or the hospital regarding either medical updates on Mumia’s condition or to confirm or deny family visitations.

Mumia’s family, attorneys and supporters are extremely worried about his current medical condition and alarmed that he is being held incommunicado while his wife, legal counsel and his private doctor are being denied any access to him.

When Mumia was first rushed to the emergency room this March in diabetic shock, a global network of supporters sprang into action to inundate phone lines of prison and hospital officials demanding that they allow visitation from his family and attorneys.  Once again it’s time to activate that support.

Just last week supporters delivered a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf calling on him to release Mumia from prison in order to get the proper medical care he needs.  It was signed by numerous world dignitaries, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, New York  Congressman Charles Rangel, President of Local 1199 SEIU, George Gresham, Danny Glover, Alice Walker and many more.  For the full letter and list of signers, click here.

Please call the officials below to demand:

-Unrestricted hospital visitations by Mumia’s family,
-Demand access for his attorneys
-Let Mumia call family, supporters and doctors
-Stop state’s attempt to murder Mumia by medical mistreatment
-Release Mumia from prison to be able to obtain needed health care.

Use these demands appropriately for each of these venues.  So with the hospital, we want to emphasize the access and communication issues, the first three demands.

Geisinger Medical Center – 570-271-6211
DOC Secretary John Wetzel – 717-728-2573;  ra-crpadocsecretary@pa.gov
PA Gov. Tom Wolf –717-787-2500; fax: 717-772-8284; governor@pa.gov

Note:  The hospital has Mumia on a “confidential” list so the operators will say they have no one named Mumia Abu-Jamal or Wesley Cook at the hospital. People should tell the operator that their call should be reported to the hospital administration and use both names.

Mumia Abu Jamal – updated phone campaign

From the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC):

Sisters and brothers, all of you who have shown such concern and love for Mumia:

I saw Mumia yesterday (Monday) in the visiting room at Mahanoy for a little over an hour.  He wheeled himself in in a manually controlled wheel chair.  This was not easy for him.  I then wheeled him to the front desk and where we sat.  He looked better than he did in those widely disseminated photos taken a week ago and, similarly, seemed a little better than Wadiya’s description when she saw him on Thursday.  As I noted in an intro to Wadiya’€™s report, the different descriptions may reflect some differences in the eyes of the beholders, but mostly I think reflect the fluctuations in the diabetic condition he is suffering from.

To clarify some differences in reports.  Mumia repeated that he had lost over 80 pounds.  This enormous weight loss in such a short period of time causes him pain when he sits, apparently especially in the wheel chair.  I suggested a pillow, which obviously should have been provided with the wheel chair, and he said he would get one.  His skin continued to look motley, multi-colored, and very flaky.  It felt dry.  He said it did not hurt but itched badly, and he has to cover his body with the anti-itching cream he uses repeatedly, as he did before coming out for his visit. He is still shaking.  Perhaps one of the doctors we are consulting can explain what the shaking is from. His speech was clear and not at all slurred.  He says he does not have pneumonia, one of the conditions that has been referred to several times, and that his lungs are clear.  The confusion was that one technician confused the scar from his gunshot wound obtained at the time of his original arrest and incarceration in 1981 with possible lung damage from pneumonia.  His diet has changed significantly:  he is getting a lot of fruit and vegetables and his calorie intake is being monitored. It was just increased to 2500 calories a day.  This diet improvement was certainly one of the victories of our campaign, as we expressed outrage at the diet he was being given (pasta for dinner and cake along with oatmeal for breakfast) following a blood sugar level that was so dangerously close to diabetic coma.  The authorities must have been embarrassed by being caught in their wanton neglect of Mumia’€™s needs, whether coming from malpractice or malevolence.

Mumia was very alert and deep, as usual filled with extensive historical knowledge, as we discussed some of the same kinds of political issues we generally discuss when I visit.  He was occasionally even humorous.  His spirit and intellect remain unquestionably Mumia. But he is concerned about some loss in his ability to retrieve words, aphasia like symptoms, and he sometimes experiences fugue states.  He apparently did not experience any of these symptoms while I was there. Very notable to me was the trauma all this has imposed on Mumia, major, major, major physical and emotional trauma.  He feels the steroids given him for his initial skin problem brought on the diabetes, and now the life threatening diabetic picture, not to mention the pain, the itching, the shaking, and the memory issues he described.  ALL DONE TO HIM, IMPOSED ON HIM.

Mumia is deeply grateful to the movement for its love and has great faith in its power. When I asked if he had any suggestions for what we should be doing, he said “€œKeep doing what you’€™re doing.”  So let’s keep those calls, emails, faxes and educational meetings going.

Below is Noelle Hanrahan’s summary of what the doctors in the case say they will need.  Please request these when you write or call the individuals listed at the end.

1) Mumia’s chosen private physician has immediate regular phone access to Mumia in the infirmary. Phone access is limited in the infirmary, and Mumia and his physician need to be in conversation throughout each week.

2) His doctor be allowed to communicate freely and regularly with the prison infirmary physicians who are currently overseeing Mumia’€™s care.

3) The PA Department of Corrections (DOC) allow Mumia’€™s doctor to schedule an immediate Independent Medical Examination in an examination room with a table and medical instruments.

4) The PA DOC develop a diagnostic and treatment plan adequate to understand any underlying conditions that have contributed to his current ongoing crisis, and that consultation with appropriate specialists be arranged in a timely fashion and be used to assist in this effort.

We need a mass mobilization of calls and letters to:

Tom Wolf, PA Governor
717-787-2500
governor@PA.gov
508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg PA 17120

John Wetzel, PA Department of Corrections
717-728-4109
1920 Technology Pkwy, Mechanicsburg PA 17050

John Kerestes, Superintendent-Â SCI Mahanoy
570-773-2158 x8102
Fax: 570-783-2008

ONA MOVE!

Suzanne Ross
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC
P.O. Box 16, College Station, NY, NY 10030
212-330-8029, www.FreeMumia.com, info@FreeMumia.com