Monday, December 05, 2005

"We May Be Immigrants But We Are Human Beings First"

Those are the words of immigrants in the custody of the Homeland Security Department after they witnessed the death of Richard Rust who died from a heart attack because he was denied medical care.

Uncovering a series of deaths, NPR asks whether there is a pattern of medical neglect in Homeland Security detention centers.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that one can tell a lot about a country by how it treats its prisoners. Here is how an expert on prison health care evaluates the evidence:

But nationally respected specialists on prison health care told NPR that if the detainees accounts are true -- their stories are remarkably consistent -- then the prison's efforts fell far short of the required standard of medical care. "It's unconscionable in my opinion," says Dr. Robert Greifinger, who has investigated health care systems in prisons for the federal and local governments. Greifinger has not personally investigated Rust's death, but he says if the detainees' accounts are accurate, the Oakdale staff's "inaction in the face of his life-threatening condition could have been a cause of his death."

Greifinger says the detainees' story suggests the possibility that the staff's response "was more than negligence -- that it was what, in legal terms, is called ‘deliberate indifference' to serious medical needs. If there's deliberate indifference, it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment."


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