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Suit: Kan. prison contractor’s negligence forced removal of woman’s colon

An ex-inmate alleged that most of her colon had to be removed after prison officials and the state’s health care provider ignored her requests for medication


This photo shows the medium-security building at the Topeka Correctional Facility, the prison in Kansas for women offenders, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Topeka, Kan.

AP Photo/John Hanna

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — A former Kansas inmate alleges in a lawsuit that most of her colon had to be removed after prison officials and the state’s health care provider ignored her requests for medication.

Sarah Loretta Cook, 68, filed the lawsuit this month against the Kansas Department of Corrections and its health care provider, Corizon Health. She accuses state prison and Corizon officials of malpractice and negligence because employees failed to act “in the face overwhelming evidence” of her profuse bleeding, complaints and rapidly worsening medical condition, The Wichita Eagle reported.

“They don’t care who dies, how they die or what they do to you. And I’m not going to stand still and sit here and go, ’Isn’t that nice?” Cook told the newspaper.

Cook was transferred to the Topeka Correctional Facility on May 3, 2016, to finish her sentence for drug-related charges. She said she has used Rowasa enemas and a bland diet to control her gastrointestinal conditions for decades. According to her lawsuit, when her condition flared up while she was in Topeka Correctional, she asked for Rowasa and a bland diet on “numerous occasions” but was only given Rowasa a few days before her release that July 5. Five days later, doctors told Cook she had a perforated bowel and removed most of her colon.

Corizon spokeswoman Martha Harbin said in an email that the company can’t comment on pending litigation or a patient’s personal health information. The Corrections Department also would not comment on the lawsuit.

Kansas pays Corizon about $70 million annually to provide health care to prison inmates. The corrections agency said earlier this year that 48 lawsuits have been filed since 2014 involving medical care in Kansas prisons. Eighteen lawsuits have been dismissed and 30 are pending, said Viola Riggin, the agency’s director of health care services.

“In any system, you’re going to have grievances and you’re going to have lawsuits. You just are,” said Riggin, who called the number of lawsuits “very low.”

Kansas assessed more than $3.4 million in penalties against Corizon during the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. Riggin said at a legislative hearing in January that most of the penalties were related to staffing because Kansas fines Corizon whenever it falls below certain staffing thresholds.

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