SICKENING

Lawsuit: Prison Ignored Inmate as Fungus Ate His Brain

Kelly Weill
10.23.17 5:00 AM ET

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Prison hospital staff said Marques Davis was faking his symptoms. One month later, he was dead.

Davis, 27, was healthy when he arrived at Kansas’ Hutchinson Correctional Facility last summer, his mother and daughter claim in a new lawsuit. But months into his incarceration, Davis began experiencing pain in his legs, which spread to the rest of his body. He lost control of his legs, and bladder. Corizon Health, a frequently sued health care company that serviced Hutchinson Correctional failed to treat Davis, his family claims. Instead, the company allegedly accused him of faking symptoms. Days later, an infection in his brain, lungs, liver, and kidney killed him.

“It feels like something is eating my brain,” Davis told prison doctors. It was late December 2016, and Davis had been experiencing health issues since since July.

But what had begun as numbness in his legs was spreading, his family claims in their lawsuit. He experienced severe pain in his back and needed a cane to walk. He had visited the prison infirmary dozens of times, and received varying diagnoses. During a summer visit, a doctor told Davis his blood pressure medication was making him dizzy, and ended Davis’ prescription. During September visits, prison doctors gave him Tylenol, but recorded in medical documents that they believed he was faking his symptoms.

During that December visit, Davis complained of worsening symptoms. He was dizzy, having hot sweats, and struggled to walk. He requested a wheelchair, but was denied, his family alleges in their suit. His symptoms continued to worsen through March 2017, with prison doctors continuing to document that Davis was faking his symptoms, his family alleges.

On March 25, Davis was rushed to the infirmary, where staff documented his arms “shaking uncontrollably.” They released him to his cell, where he collapsed again that same night.

Six days later, he could no longer control his bladder or bowel movements. He became “increasingly confused,” speaking incoherently and drinking his own urine. On April 11, after over a week of the worsening symptoms, Corizon finally admitted Davis for an MRI.

The scan found “wide-spread infection” throughout Davis’ brain and evidence of tonsillar herniation, a potentially deadly brain condition that forces the upper parts of the brain into the lower sections. But rather than send Davis to the hospital, Corizon allegedly sent him back to his isolation cell. The following day, Davis went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead at a hospital. An autopsy later found a “far advanced” infection on his lungs, liver, kidney, and brain.

Davis’ family accuses the prison medical provider Corizon Health of allowing a preventable death.

“Over the course of nearly eight months, Decedent Marques Davis and his mother, Plaintiff Shermaine Walker filed numerous grievances and sick calls which only resulted in Corizon healthcare staff continuing to do nothing to help Decedent,” the family’s lawsuit reads.

In a statement, Corizon claimed Davis had received adequate medical care.

“We are first and foremost healthcare providers committed to providing the best possible care to our patients,” Martha Harbin, Corizon’s director of external affairs, told The Daily Beast. “It is important to emphasize that the existence of a lawsuit is not necessarily indicative of quality of care or any wrongdoing, and that a legal complaint represents only allegations made by a plaintiff’s attorney and selected information to support those allegations. While we would very much like to share the details of the care we provided to Mr. Davis, we are prohibited from doing so by patient privacy laws. We expect any legal proceedings to reveal Mr. Davis’ care was appropriate.”

Corizon has a long history of inmate lawsuits. In 2015, New York City ended its contract with Corizon, after missteps by Corizon employees were found to have contributed to at least two recent inmate deaths. The company was also accused of failing to administer basic background checks and hiring prison health staff with violent felony convictions including kidnapping and murder.

State correctional departments in Maine, Florida, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Tennessee have also recently ended their contracts with Corizon over reports of inmate deaths and suffering in the company’s infirmaries.

A 2016 investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center accused Corizon of refusing to transfer inmates to hospitals, because the trips cut into Corizon’s bottom line. In their suit, Davis’ family makes similar allegations, accusing Corizon of encouraging “a policy, custom or practice of refusing to refer ill inmates to the hospital in order to save money.”

Davis could have been saved, his family argues. “Instead,” they write, “Marques Davis was forced to suffer for months from a severe, debilitating neurological disorder that resulted in his death.”

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