'Tumor Eroded Through Skin': A Graphic Look at Prison Health Care

'Pacific Standard' charts the case of Debbie Daley
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2017 12:39 PM CDT
Updated Jul 16, 2017 7:36 AM CDT
'Tumor Eroded Through Skin': A Graphic Look at Prison Health Care
Debbie Daley's case is a sad one.   (Getty Images)

Pacific Standard sets out to expose the "twisted world of for-profit prison health care" in a lengthy piece that the easily queasy may struggle through. John H. Tucker charts the case of Debbie Daley, an inmate at Virginia's Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women who in July 2014 had completed half of a three-year sentence for illegally distributing pills. She was also suffering from rectal cancer, a diagnosis she'd received shortly after arriving at Fluvanna. It, along with 16 other state facilities, contracted out its health care to the for-profit firm Corizon, a situation some critics fear leads to substandard care (Tucker digs into this). Radiation failed for the then-49-year-old, so chemo was ordered. But Fluvanna missed two of her appointments. Infection set in; the tumor grew into a "grapefruit-sized bulge" that a prison doctor wouldn't treat with antibiotics. Her pain meds were reportedly regularly withheld.

When Daley finally saw her oncologist, Erika Ramsdale, at the University of Virginia Medical Center, "the tumor had eroded through the skin," writes Tucker. Sepsis had set in. And Ramsdale decided to do something extreme: Believing Daley was being medically neglected, she deemed her an unsafe discharge, meaning Daley wouldn't be released to Fluvanna. When she Googled Fluvanna's number so she could call officials with the news, she found an article that mentioned a lawsuit against the prison over medical neglect. It had been filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville on behalf of a list of inmates with medical grievances. Daley was one of them. Tucker looks at the uphill battle inmates have in ultimately proving "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs" in court. But in this case, a settlement was reached. For Daley, however, death soon followed. Full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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