Mumia Abu Jamal

An amended lawsuit has been filed against a Pennsylvania prison and its medical personnel for refusing Hepatitis C treatment to political prisoner and former Black Panther Party member, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

According to Think Progress, the amended suit was filed on Tuesday just days after it was confirmed the 61-year-old had the disease. Abu-Jamal was initially diagnosed with the disease in 2012, but the information was never relayed to medical officials who hospitalized him in March after he allegedly fell into “diabetic shock.” Abu-Jamal returned to jail two days later, but wasn’t given any treatment for skin rashes, blotches and sores on his body. He was also denied visits from his family and friends during a second visit.

Abu-Jamal was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Philadelphia police officer 34 years ago, a crime he says he didn’t commit.

The original lawsuit was filed in June by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and co-counsel Bob Doyle.

Grote tells Think Progress:

“One of the dangers of the illness is that people may not know they have it, which could delay treatment. Since his diagnosis, the prison hasn’t monitored Mumia’s Hepatitis C, or anyone else’s for that matter,” Grote said.

“They only informed Mumia that his Hepatitis C was active last week,” Grote added. “Under guidelines established by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, every Hepatitis C-positive person should be treated. They say highest priority should be in cases of serve manifestations of the illness, including skin conditions. So he certainly qualifies for that treatment.”

Symptoms for Hepatitis C include nausea, fatigue, joint pains and in some cases, none at all. If gone untreated, it can slow down blood flow and effect the breakdown of nutrients and toxins. Abu-Jamal had symptoms of  skin sores, inflamed kidneys, and type 2 diabetes. It isn’t known how he contracted the disease.

Since Abu-Jamal’s sentencing, he’s been vocal online about police brutality with radio essays and publishing books on his political beliefs. Abu-Jamal and Grote are hoping to raise awareness about the treatment for Hepatitis C in the prison system.

“Since we have one plaintiff, it’s not the sort of case where we could argue for system-wide changes, but setting a precedent where Mumia is able to get treatment would benefit others who are seeking the same relief,” Grote said. “These new medications aren’t complicated. People take this pill every day for eight to 12 weeks. The issue is cost. Part of this scandal is the monopoly pricing in the pharmaceutical industry for treatments of diseases that affect poor people and people of color disproportionately.”

A sticker price on a pill to help treat the disease could be up to $1,000 and $85,000 for full blown treatment.  As the disease effects 2.3 to 5.2 million people in the U.S, lawmakers have moved to spend more money on treatments  from $286 million in 2013 to $4.5 billion last year.

See details behind Abu-Jamal’s amended suit here.

SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty 

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