Does An Inmate Deserve Good Health Care?

On Feb 11, 2013 my husband, Scott passed away. He was 40 years old and had been serving a 42-month sentence on drug-related charges prior to his death. He was in the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections when he died. For most of his life, Scott had been an addict.

In the fall of 2011, Scott had been having pain in his sides and asked to be taken to the clinic. As the policies state, all inmates in custody are to receive the same standard of care as those outside the walls of prison. The sad fact is that they do not, and quite honestly if one does not have someone on the outside fighting for their care, they are shuffled away and forgotten. I continuously called the clinic on Scott’s behalf. I contacted the warden, his unit team counselor and the secretary of corrections to get them involved in seeing that his health issues were addressed. He was taken for testing and a growth was discovered on his right kidney. At first it was classified as a cyst, but then after moving him to different facilities and performing a sonogram, the medical staff classified it as a mass. They lead us to believe that this mass was cancerous and needed to be removed.

It’s important to note that getting Scott an appointment with a doctor was incredibly difficult even though he had Hepatitis C and a compromised immune system. Several months passed before they got around to scheduling the laparoscopic procedure to remove the mass. On Feb 4th, 2013 they brought Scott in for a ‘simple’ procedure. Although blood work conducted in the prison showed high liver enzymes, low platelets, problems with his liver and spleen, and bruising, Scott’s medical history was not shared with the outside surgeon. No biopsy was performed and no further tests of the ‘mass’ were conducted. In short, he was not treated as a regular patient.

When he was transported for the procedure, Scott was first transported to a clinic then moved to a hospital in Wichita, Kansas called the Wesley Medical Center. I had trouble getting basic information about his condition and his whereabouts, even after frantic calls to the clinic and to various people within the Department of Corrections, so I could get an update. Soon I was begging, “TELL ME IF MY HUSBAND IS ALIVE.” I received no answers, so I raised hell and was finally given some details about his circumstances so that I could be with him, but I did not receive that information until the following day at 3pm. When I arrived, there was an armed guard in his room. Scott was handcuffed and shackled to a bed. He was on a ventilator and was unresponsive. The guard would not actually allow me to enter the room unless Scott was 100% fatal. That came the morning of Feb 11th. All of Scott’s health issues seemed to snowball, and he was ultimately treated with a blood thinning medication that his body could not tolerate. From what I understand, he basically bled to death.

Before he died, I diligently stayed outside his room, trying to sit where he could see me should he awaken. I never left his side. Scott never returned to prison. They released his body directly to the coroner, then to me. Before he died, while he could still talk, one of his final requests was that I sue the clinics and the Department of Corrections, so they could be held accountable for his lack of proper care, but sadly no one would accept the case due to the fact he was an inmate. “No jury would sympathize with an inmate,” I was repeatedly told. I don’t know a whole lot about medical malpractice laws or about medical testimony, but I do know that what happened wasn’t right and Scott should have received better, more humane care.

I did notice a huge difference in the medical staff at the hospital after they all met me and my boys. I wanted to make sure they all knew that Scott wasn’t just an inmate. He was a loving husband and father, a person like them. We are only human, and we all make mistakes. I loved my husband, nothing or no one could ever keep us apart, and now he is free.

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About Angela McCabe 1 Article
Angela McCabe is a young mother of three boys whose husband died while in prison. A researcher for jailexchange.com, she has decided to share the story of her loss and how she is searching for a better tomorrow.