It's the first death of 2014 among the list of inmates being served by HFP. We've just learned that Daniel Hnatiuk died on January 7. He was 58.
As is so often the case, Dan's plight was called to our attention by another prisoner. He suffered from Hepatitis C, and was in such bad shape that only a liver transplant would save his life. He remained confident that he would be released and get a new liver. Michigan prisoners are not allowed to have transplants. (From what we're told, it's not because they're prisoners...it's because the prison medical staff won't provide the necessary care for the patient after the surgery.)
When HFP was notified by a fellow prisoner that this inmate was not getting appropriate care, we pounced on the case. “I pray that you are the help I have been looking for,” he said to me in a short hand-written note. We prayed the same thing. He had been told the disease was so advanced that the usual medications could not be used. He said that he was in excruciating pain, which we found most irritating. You may not be able to treat the disease, but there are meds to ease the pain.
We learned that he had been denied a commutation in 2011. He was working on a new application when we began communicating with him last year. He and I did a lot of work on his application form to get it polished up. HFP encouraged him to seek a compassionate release because of the severity of his illness. That's what we were working on the last time we exchanged messages.
What a shame that a person who is terminally ill, and in terrible pain, cannot be released to die at home. Where is the compassion in all of this? Did anyone really think that Dan would be a threat to society?
He took his last breath alone, behind cold prison bars.
As Jesus did when his friend Lazarus died, I wept.