Inmate Sues Canadian Government, Alleges That Prison Health Conditions Led Him to Contract HIV, Hepatitis C
A prison inmate in Canada is suing the Canadian government, claiming that he contracted HIV and hepatitis C because "public health measures in prisons are so abysmal they constitute negligence," the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. In the suit, plaintiff Jason Pothier, who uses intravenous drugs, said that officials at an Ontario prison denied his "repeated requests" for access to clean needles and methadone, despite knowing that such denials would "materially increase" his risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C. Pothier said that he repeatedly asked to be put on a methadone treatment program to "assist him in combating his addiction to narcotics, and more importantly, to reduce the risk of hepatitis C and HIV infection." Pothier added that since becoming infected with HIV and hepatitis C, drug treatments for his conditions "have been supplied to him haphazardly, which has endangered his health." By providing him with "poor" HIV treatment, Pothier said, the prison system is failing to meet a "duty of care to provide him with essential health care conforming to professionally accepted standards." Pothier is suing the Correctional Service of Canada, the commissioner of corrections and the wardens of Warkworth Penitentiary and Kingston Penitentiary for 25 million Canadian dollars (approximately U.S. $16 million).
Challenging Prison Health Standards
The Globe and Mail reports that the "central issue" in the lawsuit is Pothier's contention that his constitutional rights were violated because "health programs in prisons are far inferior to those in the community." Needle-exchange and methadone programs are "commonplace" in larger Canadian cities, but prisons do not offer needle exchanges and only offer methadone programs in "exceptional circumstances." Darrell Kloeze, a lawyer at the Ontario HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic, said that "the loss of liberty that accompanies criminal conviction 'does not and should not extend to health care.'" Kloeze added, "Corrections officials have a duty of care that extends to providing safe needles and methadone, and they have failed in that duty" (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/20).