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Man sues Md. prison over alleged lack of hepatitis treatment

The Jessup Correctional Institution. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

The Jessup Correctional Institute. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

A man filed a federal lawsuit last week alleging medical providers at a Maryland prison failed to properly document and treat his hepatitis C, leading to long-term health complications.

Robert Williams contracted the hepatitis C virus (HCV) while incarcerated at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ Jessup Correctional Institute (JCI), according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Thursday.

Williams was released in March 2017 but is still dealing with the ramifications of the alleged lack of proper treatment while he was incarcerated, according to Masai McDougall, one of Williams’ attorneys.

McDougall, of The People’s Law Firm LLC in Silver Spring, said Williams wants to change how the prison system treats individuals with HCV in addition to being compensated for his injuries.

Williams alleges he was not treated for HCV, developed cirrhosis and began experiencing internal bleeding. He claims he did not receive treatment until he was vomiting blood and “on the brink of death” and became suicidal as a result of the lack of treatment.

The complaint alleges violations of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution as well as state constitutional claims and medical malpractice. Williams names the DPSCS, prison health care provider Wexford Health Sources Inc. and various medical staff. He seeks $10 million each in compensatory and punitive damages.

Spokespeople for Wexford and DPSCS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit also alleges a larger pattern on the part of DPSCS and Wexford in its treatment of individuals with HCV.

“During Plaintiff’s detention at JCI and for a period of time prior thereto, Wexford and DPSCS had notice of a widespread practice by its employees and agents at JCI under which detainees with HCV and cirrhosis were routinely denied access to proper or sufficient medication and medical attention,” the complaint states. “It was common to observe detainees of JCI with clear symptoms (of) HCV and cirrhosis who frequently requested medical care and medication, but whose requests were routinely denied or complete ignored. On information and belief, a significant portion of these denials of medical care resulted in serious bodily injury.”

Doctors should have monitored Williams and provided emergency treatment when he had episodes of bleeding that prevented blood flow to the liver, according to the complaint. The standard of care for HCV also now requires treatment with one of the prescription drugs which became available around 2013.

Williams began having serious bleeding incidents in early 2014 but was never referred for emergency treatment or follow-ups, according to the complaint. He was transported to a hospital in March 2016 and a doctor noted he had severe cirrhosis and should be treated with medication for HCV. One he was returned to the prison, he alleges he did not receive adequate follow-up treatment and made repeated trips to the emergency room for similar issues.

By November, Williams was in persistent pain and experiencing mental trauma, according to the complaint. He was evaluated for treatment for HCV in 2017 but denied treatment.

The denial of treatment and lack of follow-ups are part of Wexford’s common practices, according to the complaint.

The case is Robert Williams v. Wexford Health Sources Inc. et al., 1:19-cv-00033.

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