How many Californians die each week because of not securing medical care or due to malpractice?
You probably can’t answer that question nor can federal judges who forced California’s prison system into a receivership that triggered costly expansion of medical services and the early release of tens of thousands of felons.
We do know – thanks to the federal courts – an average of one inmate out of a statewide prison population of 172,000 was dying each week in 2006 due to medical neglect or malpractice.
Keep in mind “neglect” runs the gamut from a prison inmate heart attack victim not getting care quickly enough to the treatment of a host of conditions that are worsened by the heavy use of drugs at one point in a person’s life.
The odds are pretty high that those in the prison population have histories of extensive abuse of drugs that can make medical treatment of ailments tricky to say the least.
Some have characterized that loss of one inmate on average a week through medical neglect and malpractice as barbaric and criminal.
To give the “one-a-week” average some perspective, the combined population of Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, and Tracy today is about what the state prison’s system was at its peak when the federal courts intervened.
How many people in those four combined cities die on average each week because they suffered a heart attack and medical care wasn’t immediately available, could not afford to access medical care, or either weren’t diagnosed or misdiagnosed in the early stages of a disease?
It could easily average one person a week or higher.
Yet the federal courts – operating in a vacuum as they often do – forced the commitment of limited public resource to essentially assure inmates of quick and prompt accessibility to state-of-the-art medical care.
Essentially they set in motion the creation of a privileged class of Californians – convicted murderers, child molesters, rapists, burglars, drug dealers, and gang bangers – who will have universal access to medical care without worry about cost, treatment delays, or not being able to get the best possible care.
It is true that the prison system hasn’t yet accomplished all of the high standards for medical care that the courts have dictated but it is well on its way. Too bad the same can’t be said for poor children in Kern County; the elderly who worked all of their lives and obeyed the law, and even served their country in the military or countless other “sub groups” of this nation’s population.
Prisoners should not be denied decent medical care. At the same time, they shouldn’t have a higher level of assured medical care than average citizens who they preyed upon to earn a stint behind bars.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.