Drug War Prisoners

About COUS Columns Section Contact COUS Documents Section Drug War Talk Section Legalization Letters Light Side Links Media Projects Research

October, 2004 : Lives at Risk, Substandard Medical Care

  1. Staph infection rampant in prisons

    Fred Leyland writes from FCI Beckley, West Virginia: "Staph germs invaded our camp here. Several inmates got really sick, resulting in numerous denials by staff that anything was wrong. No disinfectant or decontamination. Finally, when the media got word of it, a change in bedding - new mattresses and pillows - followed."

    Fred encloses a Reuters article from the New York Post, dated July 15, which he thinks applies to FCI Beckley.

    "A drug-resistant 'superbug' found in hospitals has a close cousin that is affecting athletes, prisoners and small children in growing numbers across the nation, experts said yesterday.

    "Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can become fatal if not treated with the right antibiotics, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "'MRSA is showing up in places it had never been seen before --- as the most common cause of skin infections among inmates in some jails and --- rarely as a severe and sometimes fatal lung or bloodstream infection in previously healthy people,' Jernigan told reporters.

    "He said the community strains, unlike those in hospital, 'were capable of producing a toxin --- which can cause destruction of cells in the skin leading to pus formation but also can cause a serious and often fatal form of pneumonia."

  2. Doctor Rath's stethoscope trick

    Richard Lester describes treatment for his pneumonia after the forest fire outside FCI Safford landed him in hospital [see Richard's story in Forest Fire Imperils Prison].

    I was assigned to the hospital wing on account of fluid in my lungs. The doctor is a quack. His name is Doctor Rath - without the W, of course. Rather than treat me for the infection in my lungs, Rath decided to change my standard medications. As a result of that blunder, my blood pressure dropped to 73/60. I became desperately ill, not that I wasn't there already.

    Once when Dr. Rath examined me and I was at a very low ebb, he placed his stethoscope on my chest for about three seconds and announced with a smile, "You sound better." My eyes went up to meet his, only to notice that his portion of the stethoscope was around his neck, not in his ears. He left the room, and I inquired of the guard, "Can he hear with that thing around his neck?"

    The guard laughed. "Not a chance!" He went on to say that prisoners were about all the patients he had. No one in their right mind would seek his help or advice.

    He continued: "Doc Rath could see everyone in hospital and in his office and be on the first tee by 9 AM."

    By the way, I am told I am no longer considered to be in custody. What can this mean? They removed the chains that secured me to the hospital bed. When they returned me here I walked through the prison gates free of chains. The first time in 11 years. I believe they will send me to another facility soon. Will keep you posted.

    God bless, Dick

  3. Another death at FCI Danbury: "Once the razor begins to go thru your body …"

    There was a major investigation going on here. We have one unit that's a psych unit. One of the girls broke up some of those disposable razors and put them in tissue and swallowed them along with a bunch of pills. Some of the other inmates in her unit went and told, and they put her on suicide watch, which consists of a room up in medical with the food slot in the door open and another inmate watching you 24/7. Now any idiot would have to imagine that once the razor pieces begin to go thru your body there's going to be cutting as you try to pass them. Even if they didn't believe she'd really done it she should have been sent to the outside hospital. Well, at 7.30 when the PA finally decided to check her, she was already dead. The inmate that was watching her never noticed that for hours on end this woman didn't turn over or move. I'd have to say she was sleeping on the job. We were locked down all day. They had another memorial service for her, the sixth in two years.

    (Excerpt of copy of letter received from the sister of a prisoner at the Federal women's prison at Danbury.)