Thursday, October 13, 2016

Which is it: penny-wise/pound foolish or cruelty and unusual punishment?

So when does being penny-wise but pound-foolish get reduced to something that is considered cruel and unusual?

Let me give you some examples.

Mr. C is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair.  Because of his situation he must use a catheter to empty his bladder.  The physician on our advisory panel says this must be done at least three times a day, or else the patient will be exposed to significant risk.  Yet, the prisoner claims he is given only 7 catheters per week, allowing him to empty his bladder just once a day, or forcing him to use an unsterile catheter for repeat usage.  Is the little bit of savings really worth the risk?

I’ve told the story of Ms. D before…she’s experiencing some sign of dementia, has numerous health problems, and is forced to use a colostomy bag.  A while back we heard from the prisoner aide who tries to assist her that, on a given day, the patient was not allowed to get a new colostomy bag.  “They told her she should rinse the bags out in toilet water and re-use them.  They told her bags are too expensive, and that she’s only going to get one every three days now.  If it gets full, to empty and rinse in the toilet!”  Wonder if that extra savings for the state will help balance the budget?

And then there’s Mr. S, who struggles with A-Fib, and the prison doctors over a period of time have decided to stop his anti-coagulant meds.  Says the HFP consulting doctor:  “If they have kept him off anti-coagulants against his will, he is at a 10 x increase risk of a stroke and that is malpractice!”  Will money be saved by not giving this guy his meds?

I hasten to stress that, because we cannot get into the prisons, it’s impossible to confirm these stories.  But stop to think about it.  Why in heaven’s name would any of these three people lie about something like this?

So we’re back to my original question.  The state isn’t making any sense here.  It’s like that time when they stopped freely handing out salt and pepper with meals, FOR BUDGET REASONS! 

The people hoping to get prison reform legislation passed in Michigan can give you concrete examples as to how the state can really, truly save money.  But it doesn’t involve a reduction in the distribution of catheters or colostomy bags, or the discontinuance of anti-coagulant medication.  Not salt and pepper, either.

I’ll ask one more question.  We have 42,000 people in our Michigan prison system.  Do you think these are the only three examples of cruel and unusual procedures and policies?

Kudos to those staff members and medical personnel who have a heart and who do their best to take care of inmate needs.

Shame on those who don’t!

And shame on the state for not watching this more closely.  It's what we want, what we pay for, and what we expect.

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