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Prison Agency Asks Judge To Reject Hepatitis Arguments

André Luiz D. Takahashi (Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida Department of Corrections this week asked a federal judge to reject arguments that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing “cutting edge” drugs to prisoners with hepatitis C.

Three inmates filed a class-action lawsuit in May alleging that the department is failing to provide proper care to thousands of prisoners with liver-damaging hepatitis C.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tallahassee, contends that the prison system has not provided a relatively new type of drug --- known as direct-acting antivirals --- effective in treating the disease.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act and a federal law known as the Rehabilitation Act. But in a motion filed Tuesday, the Department of Corrections argued that a judge should dismiss the allegations dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

In the motion, the department said the lawsuit includes a “fundamental defect --- alleged improper medical treatment decisions cannot serve as the basis for claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The department said treatment is being provided to the plaintiffs in the case.

“Thus, the true issue is what level of medical treatment is required under the Constitution, not whether plaintiffs are being discriminated against by the care being provided by the FDOC (Department of Corrections),” the motion said. “Plaintiffs' attempt to impose a standard of care on the FDOC's medical services through an ADA/RA cause of action is improper as suggested” by U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Among the cases the department cited in the motion was a 2005 decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a high-profile legal battle about removing the feeding tube of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo. The department said the Schiavo decision backs up its argument that medical decisions cannot be the basis for claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While Tuesday's motion seeks dismissal of the prisoners' arguments under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, it does not request dismissal of the claim under the U.S Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

Copyright 2017 Health News Florida

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