ACLU of Arizona Lawsuit Triggers Transfer of TB Patient to Denver Hospital
PHOENIX – After spending nearly one year in a Maricopa County jail ward despite never having committed any crime, tuberculosis patient Robert Daniels will be finally transferred on Thursday to the National Jewish Medical and Research Center to receive treatment for his tuberculosis infection, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona confirmed today.
“This live-saving transfer is long overdue,” said Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona, and co-counsel in the lawsuit against Maricopa County. “It’s unconscionable for Maricopa health officials to incarcerate a sick man in jail for 11 months. We will be doing everything in our power to ensure that this does not reoccur in the future and that the county adequately funds and builds humane quarantine facilities.”
The transfer to the Denver respiratory hospital comes just seven weeks after the ACLU of Arizona filed a federal lawsuit against Maricopa County public health officials for failing to place Daniels in humane quarantine facilities. State law mandates that health officials place quarantined patients in the least restrictive environment. Daniels, however, was placed in the jail ward at the Maricopa Medical Center because the county deliberately failed to explore alternative locations in which to quarantine him in an effort to cut costs, according to the ACLU.
Daniels lost more than 25 pounds during the period of his incarceration. While under the custody of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he was treated like any other inmate. He was subjected to intrusive strip searches, and was unable to receive any visits from family and friends. He was not permitted to exercise or walk outside, and had no access to social or recreational activities like the Internet. Video cameras recorded his every move. His only showers came nine months after incarceration, when the ACLU lawsuit was filed.
On June 29th, Maricopa County Superior Court Commission Benjamin Vatz issued an order authorizing the county to transfer Daniels to National Jewish for medical care, treatment and housing “as deemed necessary and appropriate.” The transfer was delayed while health officials in both Phoenix and Denver ironed out details related to the move, including payment by Maricopa County of the transportation and specialized surgery.
Although Daniels is no longer contagious, medical personnel at the Maricopa Medical Center and National Jewish agree that in order to have a meaningful chance for a cure Daniels requires very specialized surgery to remove the tuberculosis in his lungs.
“We’re hoping that with proper treatment from the experts at National Jewish the outcome will be positive, and he’ll be able to fully recover from this debilitating infection,” said ACLU of Arizona cooperating attorney Linda Cosme, who was directly involved in negotiating Daniels’ transfer to Denver.
National Jewish specializes in performing surgery on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis patients, and many patients who have had surgery at the facility in the past became culture-negative shortly after surgery and were able to go home a month after surgery.
The ACLU’s complaint in this case can be found online at: www.acluaz.org/News/PressReleases/