Saturday, March 15, 2008

Judge Concludes Refusing Urgent Medical Treatment For 11 Months Would Be "Beyond Cruel and Unusual Punishment"

As reported by Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times on March 13, 2008, in an article "Judge calls immigration officials' decision 'beyond cruel,'" Los Angeles federal district court judge Dean Pregerson agreed with the family of Francisco Castaneda that if as alleged immigration authorities refused for 11 months to authorize an urgently needed biopsy to treat a growing lesion on the penis of someone in immigration detention, that would be cruel and unusual punishment. How could the government even argue this and require the family and the judge to spend time deciding this issue -- seems like an obvious conclusion.

According to the allegations, instead of treating and testing the detainee, government officials instead did nothing -- just gave him antihistamines, ibuprofen, and more boxer shorts. It was so bad that Judge Pregerson called it one of the most, if not the most, egregious cruel and unusual punishment that the court had ever encountered.

Let's see, in March 2006, an ICE physician wrote down the need for a biopsy and to consult with a urologist "ASAP" according to government records. For 11 months, other doctors made similar requests, with increasing urgency. In June 2006, though, Dr. Esther Hui of the Division of Immigration Health Services wrote down that ICE would not let the detainee go to a hospital because they considered a biopsy to be an elective outpatient procedure and the federal government does not pay for elective procedures. The ACLU intervened in February 2007 (11 months after the ICE physician wrote down the need for a biopsy) and suddenly ICE released the detainee who then rushed to a hospital's emergency room, started chemotherapy, and died of the long-untreated cancer.

Sometimes it takes a particularly horrifying example to turn people's attention to whether the overall treatment is adequate. Not everyone receives as bad treatment as Mr. Castaneda did before he died, but it does raise a question that the U.S. Government Accountability Office also raised -- whether immigration detainees are receiving adequate outside medical and mental health care. Who is looking into this? From a financial standpoint, taxpayers would rather give people the health care that they legally deserve rather than have detainees mistreated, seriously injured or killed, and then pay out huge amounts after the government is sued.


At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In most other countries, ILLEGAL border stealers are put into refugee camps to "get out of the way". We should do that in this country. Then maybe these ILLEGALs would be seen for what they are!


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