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OPINION: DOC’s Medical Negligence and Dehumanization of Prisoners Must End

by Hannah Bolotin


On Jan. 14, 2021, the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) published a report summarizing numerous cases of delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), highlighting the ways in which DOC’s negligence has led to several preventable prisoner deaths

In yet another example of DOC’s negligence, the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W) has been rebuffing a prisoner’s requests for treatment for rapid development of potentially cancerous tumors for years. Several years ago, Patricia Teafatiller noticed a mass on her neck. A year and a half ago, a second lump developed along her spine. Patricia sought medical care and was told it was just a knot in her neck. She was subsequently informed she had degenerative disk disease to explain away the mass on her spine, saying nothing of her symptoms and masses in other locations. The lumps have continued to grow, more masses have appeared, and none have diminished. Her neck has grown increasingly stiff; she describes it as feeling like it is in a vice, with a grinding, popping sensation whenever she moves her chin towards her chest. The results of the ultrasound that was eventually ordered were inconclusive, warranting an MRI and/or biopsy to confirm whether the masses are benign or malignant — the standard of care in any medical practice. 

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