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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inmate sues Department of Corrections over medical care

In this photo taken Aug. 29, 2013, an exterior fence outlines the Airway Heights Corrections Center in Airway Heights, Wash. An inmate is suing the Washington State Department of Corrections, alleging that he was denied medical care while incarcerated at the center. (Nicholas K. Geranios / AP)

An inmate is suing the Washington State Department of Corrections for denying him gallbladder surgery because he was close to his release date.

Fred Beeman was at the Airway Heights Correctional Center in 2015 when he was hospitalized and diagnosed with a gallbladder condition, according to the lawsuit filed in Spokane County Superior Court.

He claims he was advised by medical providers at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane that he should discuss removing his gallbladder to avoid complications and pain from gallbladder stones or infections.

Beeman, who was scheduled to be released in less than a year, claims that a corrections official did not want the department to incur the medical expense of a surgery that he would survive without until his release. He is represented by attorney Breean Beggs, who also works as a Spokane city councilman.

Beeman claimed the DOC refused to allow him to schedule a surgical consultation and medical care for his gallbladder while he was incarcerated.

Jeremy Barclay, a DOC spokesman, said Beeman was sentenced in Clark County for a little over six years on two counts of indecent liberties and one count of possession of child pornography. He was released in February 2016, but was sentenced to five more years for one count of viewing child pornography, which he will begin serving later this month. He remains incarcerated due to violations of community supervision.

Beggs said regardless of what crime Beeman is punished for, he has the right to adequate medical care.

“Part of your sentence is losing your freedom, not lack of medical care,” Beggs said. “Most people would likely agree with that.”

Beyond Beeman’s case, Beggs said poor access to medical care is a systemic issue in prisons and he regularly receives letters from inmates who claim to have similar issues. He added that in the past he has represented other inmates who filed suits against the Washington and Idaho prison systems, alleging they ignored inmates who warned that their lives were in danger resulting in assaults and a rape.

Barclay said the Washington DOC does not comment on pending litigation or legal action.