Medical Neglect Stalks Georgia Prisons
Arnold Porter was
serious, and seriously worried. He was dizzy and short of breath, he
told Dr. William Sightler, with a crushing, tightening sensation in his
chest with pain shooting up once side of his neck. "Maybe I have a
clogged artery. This is not my normal health," he told Dr. Sightler.
"Please help. I need something fast done."
Slow motion heart
attacks, in which symptoms leading up to full cardiac arrest build and
worsen gradually over weeks or months are quite common. Porter should
have been a lucky man, being able to bring his heart attack symptoms
into in a physician's office, except for one thing. Porter was a
prisoner at Georgia's Wheeler Correctional facility, operated by the
notorious Corrections Corporation of America. And William Slighter was
their doctor, not his.
According to a complaint
filed in US District Court in Dublin Ga, Porter repeatedly and
insistently sought medical aid throughout the month of December 2006,
informing Dr. Sightler and a prison nurse of his symptoms, and urgently
requesting some kind, any kind of diagnostic treatment for his chest
pain, shortness of breath, profuse sweating and the other classic
markers of cardiac disease. By December 29, the complaint states,
Porter's symptoms were well documented in his file, but the first
appointment with Dr. Sightler was delayed a full 35 days. It was at this
appointment that Porter stated he thought he might have a clogged
artery, and asked for help.
Dr. Sightler, Nurse
Newcurt, and the prison's Director of Nursing Carolyn White, the
complaint alleges, did nothing. Wheeler is a privatized prison, run by a
highly profitable corporation. Private prisons, as well as publicly-run
prisons with privatized medical care have built-in reasons to skimp on
diagnostic testing and all kinds of care. Medical care costs money, and
they're in business to make it, not to spend it.
On October 16, 2007
Arnold Porter went into full cardiac arrest. He died. His pulse and
breathing stopped, he had to be brought back with a combination of
electric shock and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Porter is lucky to be
alive today. He's a long way from being well, but has made it far enough
back to draft and file his own complaint against CCA, the state of
Georgia, and the doctors and nurses who refused to treat him till he
reached the point of death.
Porter's sister Vondra
told Black Agenda Report that "My brother says 'they've already tried to
kill me, I don't know what more they can do.'" So Porter is doing what
he can do, acting as a jailhouse lawyer, researching and assisting with
the pleas and motions of other prisoners at Coffee Correctional
facility, where he is now held.
Some other Georgia
prisoners are not so fortunate. Terrance Dean, who was brutally beaten
by officials at Macon State Prison in mid-December, around the same time
as the visit of a Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners Rights
fact-finding team, finally got a visit from his sister on Sunday,
"He's got a long way to
go," said Wendy Johnson of Atlanta. "He's in a wheelchair, his speech is
slurred, and he seems to have partial paralysis in his arm and leg on
one side. He can't walk without help... he is very fearful..." According
to Johnson, the last time he saw his mother in November, he was in
normal physical condition with no complaints.
Dean was transferred in
apparent secrecy to an Atlanta hospital more than 130 miles away from
the prison. His family was not informed at all by state authorities of
either his injury or his transfer. They had to find out by other means.
And although Johnson spoke to Steve Franklin of CBS Atlanta on Friday,
the story appears to have received little or no on-air coverage, and
cannot be found on the station's web site.
"We're going to do
everything we can to find out what happened to Terrance Dean, and
everything we can to make sure justice is served," pledged Rev. Kenny
Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society."
At Smith Prison, where
another fact-finding visit occurred, there was at least one incident
which may be another case of official retaliation for the prison strike.
The wife of another prisoner at that institution spoke to corporate
media reporters just before New Years about her husband, whose nose was
broken and not reset, and who had other injuries. Again, the story has
seen little light. The family has retained an attorney and is looking
into its legal options.
The Concerned Coalition
to Respect Prisoner Rights expects to hold a press conference in Atlanta
tomorrow at 10:30 in downtown Atlanta. We'll be there.