The ACLU of North Carolina and North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services are representing three people incarcerated in North Carolina prisons who suffer from Hepatitis C in a federal class-action lawsuit against state officials. The lawsuit argues that North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety refuses to provide medically necessary, life-saving treatment for this highly communicable disease for no justifiable reason.
In March, 2019, a federal court ruled that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has to provide treatment for Hepatitis C, the most deadly infectious disease in the U.S., to three individual plaintiffs and to make treatment possible for all people who are incarcerated in state prisons and have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is the most deadly infectious disease in the U.S., killing more Americans than the next 60 infectious diseases combined. North Carolina does not provide universal testing for Hepatitis C for all people incarcerated, even though the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommend doing so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as one-third of all people incarcerated in the U.S. suffer from the contagious disease. If left untreated, Hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer, portal hypertension, painful symptoms, and death.
The three men’s class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of all people incarcerated in North Carolina with Hepatitis C, argued that the state’s denial of medical service violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, asked the court to order state officials to formulate and implement a treatment and testing policy that meets current standards of medical care and to provide treatment to all incarcerated people identified as suffering from Hepatitis C.