By Scott Martin
I’m a 58 year old male that contracted the hepatitis C Virus 40 years ago (currently maxing-out a 2-4 ½ year sentence which began in 2012 and ends 4 months from now). During a previous incarceration at S.C.I. Somerset many years ago the Department of Corrections determined me as positively requiring HCV anti-viral treatment through long and elaborate blood-testing but it was ultimately decided by specialists in the D.O.C.’s Interferon Program that my blood platelet counts had plunged to too low a permanent average level to be able to tolerate the (old and now obsolete) interferon therapy absent significant risk of death due to internal bleeding. I was therefore advised to await the arrival of the expected future approval of new orally taken medications not anticipated to have such lethal side effects. I was to allow nothing to nullify the professional advice rendered in my specific situation. My life could very well depend upon it.
As I waited in Berks County Jail (2012) before transfer to S.C.I. Graterford the formers medical dept. anxiously summoned me due to serious concerns over my blood tests. They wanted to administer interferon quickly but reluctantly withdrew after agreeing to the aforementioned advice I recited. I said I was feeling as usual except for some incontinence and fatigue (which I attributed to poor food quality and gloom) that can hit one after landing in prison. I’d experienced such episodes before and they had cleared up after adjusting to the changed environment.
As I was (2013) processed through Graterford and S.C.I. Camp Hill I emphasized all of the aforementioned but that I had some concerns that I did not seem to be “bouncing-back” as usual and I thought it possible my liver might be evincing signs of recent decline. There was not much concern and the general attitude was “we just do intake”. I was to “bring the matter up when I got to my prison of classification” (S.C.I. Rockview) some months in the future…
On entering Rockview (later in 2013), I found its medical dept. similarly cold and incompetent. There was a façade of independent proficiency but clearly privatization had taken a strong toll upon providing an all around decent level of care. The staff wanted one in and out as quickly as possible, in handcuffs if necessary. They did not care to be reminded of the often negligent end product their employer furnished and sometimes bickering and manipulative patients kept them acting quite crude, miserly, and clandestine in their duties.
As I insisted on asserting myself on nagging symptoms I noticed my blood being taken more often for “testing. Inquiring about the new medicines and conveying that I trusted the medical dept. would not bungle around with as serious a case as mine, I found myself sitting before a registered nurse designated to “review and monitor” potential candidates for the new treatment that “may start in the future”. I was to be “kept posted” relative to my “understood concerns”. I found it peculiar that a nurse was in charge of this and as doctors I was being juggled between insisted that “HCV matters were not their department”. Furthermore, quick pronouncements such as my weight (falling) was “within the acceptable range” and my liver “felt normal” seemed inadequate though I was made to feel uninformed if I questioned. I in turn figured perhaps it was the states grim food and environment that was responsible. Besides, I was reassured that I was “on the HCV treatment list”. I was sold for now. Of course, little could I have realized it at this time but my symptoms were about to get a lot worse and cunning ideas were being crafted to ensure that a prisoner with HCV would have to be near death before receiving the costly new life-saving treatment and at that time their livers deterioration could likely be beyond managing!
As 2014 moved on a hernia abruptly appeared following incessant abdominal bloating and other bowel irregularities. Being updated that the “HCV program was (sure) to be coming in the future” at this time by the nurse, a doctor informed me that the hernia was “too small to be approved for surgery, unfortunately”. Soon I was experiencing a run in with “borderline pneumonia” as defined by one of my alternating doctors. I should “quit smoking” I was told. I could not argue against these but in retrospect I can see these “answers” were hardly considerate of my long-term HCV case and numerous assertions upon bodily anomalies that had been on the rise. For now, an “X-ray and anti-biotic” sufficed.
Next, curiously, in late 2014 I was (one of 200 guys) “chosen” to be transferred to Graterford (my hernia and all) “so asbestos could be removed from 2 buildings” at Rockview. During this 4 month trip I believe my concerns were being stalled from developing into “unwanted probing”. Later would come the denial of treatment. Over a year in fact and which would bring me within one year of my max-date. Far from enough time to piece the puzzle together and still receive treatment. Call it an intermediary disruption.
In October of 2015 I (finally) got word that the promised treatment would begin…as soon as I “passed an endoscopy examination”. Some really bad chicanery took-off from this point but which I went on to catch them in. They lied to me about the endoscopy’s purpose #1, and then as its “results” came in and I was denied treatment they again tried to throw me off track by saying “funding had been cut and “only the worst” cases would receive the new medicines”. The reason for the 1st lie was because they knew I knew only testing for cirrhosis could rule out cirrhosis in my long term case, and the reason for the 2nd lie was so that I might not connect the denial to the endoscopy and fight back against the dangerous denial of treatment based on irrelevant testing. Of course it was hoped that I would consider treatment a “hopeless cause” if “funding was cut” in all but “the worst” cases! Meanwhile, I was (evidencing being) a worst case and the endoscopy was being used as an end-run around the correct testing for cirrhosis (called for in my case) to prove it! It “wasn’t the endoscopy”, it was “the funding”. They had me in and out of the “HCV review and monitoring” room in a hot 2 minutes. Nothing like “timely and appropriate care!
As I was being smashed with this manipulative knock out punch, after being stalled and strung along for so long amidst devious ways that assessed me and set me up for that, another near pneumonia incident struck me as well – this one more overwhelming than the 1st. Complaining before a doctor as I tried to get a grip upon what was happening to me and on the tip of my tongue (as strangely absent in all that had transpired (i.e. testing for cirrhosis)), I seized upon my by now large hernia that had been minimized for far too long. That needed more than “anti-biotics”, what was the hold up with repairing it? I was told I had a “new diagnosis” of “COPD” and the “hernia could not be repaired because I would likely die under a general anesthesia”. That woke me up, I demanded a 2nd opinion on the hernia repair and filed a grievance on the denial of anti-viral treatment. The medical dept. apparently did not want an outside hospital uncovering my livers condition (i.e. testing for cirrhosis) and its need for (likely prior) treatment. “The damn horrid hustlers”, I thought, “They know what’s going-on and don’t care how dangerous it is steering me away from that”!
Sure enough, in teleconference the outside surgeon rejected Rockviews “advice” and handling of my case as invalid and shocking, said the disorders could indeed all be interrelated, and would certainly order testing for cirrhosis (and a colonoscopy) before proceeding with surgery! The issue of “anesthesia” to be used was far from his primary concerns. In a wink, the Secretary of Grievances was granting a “review” of Appeals (denied by Rockviews Medical Director and Superintendent). I’d “caught the deer in the headlights” and now they were moving into “covering their tracks” and “damage control”. I knew something had been fishy! It can be tough going when the medics are double-dealing, though!
Soon they were cancelling the outside hospital tests and attempted to propose I (simply) “get on a liver donor list”. “Yeah right”, I replied fuming, “we need to begin by testing for cirrhosis now, obviously”! “My god”, I thought, as I finally persuaded them by warning them of “the error” (i.e. legal action) of not doing so, “They’ve systematically deceived, trampled upon, + ruined me”! I was scared as I became wholly conscious of the scramming and my emaciated, weak, and dilapidated body – “They’ve near killed me”! It had been my death before their dollars all along!!
Before returning to my cell to grieve after receiving the End Stage 4 diagnosis, insult was added to injury in a stupid and callous remark made by a Physicians Assistant which so conveniently found himself empowered to “get involved with HCV matters,” where earlier licensed Medical Doctors so strangely had not. He; introducing himself as “now in charge of my case” just before cirrhosis testing; pitched the “excuse” that “surely I’d had cirrhosis for a long time”.
I pinched myself, certainly that this wasn’t happening – it was just an absurd dream! As if my extended complains of (mounting) symptoms (quite presumably) developing in tandem with (detectably) advancing cirrhosis hadn’t necessitated earlier testing in a long-term HVC case as mine, so that treatment to cure the disease and guard against cirrhotic progression (not to mention cancer) might have been rendered more timely and appropriately! The fact is, the long period of time in which action should have been taken was disregarded as of no importance! Who cares that cirrhosis can advance rapidly or symptoms of it are abounding! “Who needs creating waves with the bosses, we’ll just play stupid with Martin and the problems are his after release. Who is going to be able to say what we should have done before then? He wasn’t complaining about anything too loud we’ll say if anything doubtfully arises over it after. We’re busy, he looked fine, we called it as we saw it and did all we could do under “protocols”.” (think bogus endoscopy).
Meanwhile, the consequences of the egregious indifference and lack of urgently required accountability between officers in such serious cases cannot be dismissed as “excusable”. The clear-cut facts cannot be overlooked as “indeterminable”, and responsible professionals must not be permitted to refuse both obvious and desperately needed testing and treatment to those who have a right to proper medical care! The D.O.C. and it’s Medical Provider is to be held accountable for the dangerously enforced delays and blatant indifference so wrongly compelled upon and effectuated against me (and which surely led to negative hepatic consequences for me as seen by the parallel emerging of various and alarming symptoms). In my case, there is no question that if I didn’t get the cure just as soon as it became available there would likely be severe repercussions for every postponement! Under my circumstances, denial of treatment absent testing for cirrhosis is not “HCV reviewing and monitoring” – it is deliberate indifference based upon a farce to say the very least! Rather, under such circumstances recognition of basic and essential matters so needful to consider and act upon cannot possibly be ignored by professionals without crookedness coming into play. That deliberate indifference is openly seen and can be proven by the exceedingly conspicuous amount of all that was bypassed as “unworthy of attention” in my case of so many grave and significant aspects! In fact, there’s so much that’s so obviously out of place in my case that the slightest hint of saving money through refusal of the costly life saving medicine is all it takes to instantly fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together – indeed, nothing else could possibly account for the mammoth “missteps” in so simple yet so serious a case! But, although this may spell “deliberate indifference” to many, that term seems quite weak when the acquirement of profits involves not only money but that which results in (foreseen) injury and death! As a captive patient involved with the very real consequences of such abhorrent acts I think that the term should suitably be rephrased as “deliberate injury” or “premeditated death”. Frankly, it’s now clear to me through my experience and new awareness of past and present other occurrances that they have become so adept at, and apathetically accustomed to, getting away with these in prisons that they are sometimes startled to find that they’ve recklessly and gluttonously “fouled up” in trying to get away with them in a case as mine – which could have an enormous potential capability of snowballing into a poignant and ruinous lawsuit of notable qualities!
I also think it’s only right that I proceed on a course towards aspiring to obtain accountability, monetary damages and/or personal compensation for pain and harm suffered and assistance with competent legal counsel so that perhaps what happened to me may serve towards seeing that any possible recurrences (upon others) is at least lessened by the potentially combined effects of these and so that I might continue along as well as I conceivably can (amidst the most hazardous stage of liver damage capable of being inflicted by this devastating disease (save cancer and death that is)), despite and among the colossal misconduct and its irreversible results that have been so wrongly leveled against me!
If there’s anyone reading this that may be able to aid, support, represent, or refer me in the just mentioned planned action I would greatly appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for everyones time and consideration in reading this and the best of spirits and health to you all.
Scott Martin: KV-8780
Bellefonte, Pa. 16823