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Washington Co. Jail ivermectin case will go forward to trial

A dismissal request involving former Washington Co. inmates treated with ivermectin has been denied, sending it forward.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — This week, a judge denied a request to dismiss a case involving formerly incarcerated individuals being treated with the dewormer ivermectin at Washington County Detention Center. 

The case will now move forward to trial.

Last year, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against WCDC, Tim Helder, Sheriff of Washington County, and Dr. Robert Karas and Karas Correctional Health

The lawsuit charges the defendants for administering Ivermectin to incarcerated individuals without prior informed consent as to the drug's nature, contents, or potential side effects.

The plaintiffs allege that they were never told they were receiving ivermectin and that the defendants used overt deception by telling them that the drug cocktail merely contained “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids."

“The incarcerated individuals had no idea they were part of a medical experiment,” said Gary Sullivan, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “Sheriff Helder and Dr. Karas routinely mischaracterized the fundamental nature of plaintiffs’ claims in their request for dismissal by refusing to mention the most significant allegations in the complaint.”

Quotes from U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks' order denying the defendant’s request for dismissal:

  • “Thomas Fritch, for example, was dosed without his knowledge with 2.75 times the amount of ivermectin required to treat a parasitic infestation, Edrick Floreal-Wooten was secretly dosed with 3.4 times the approved dosage of ivermectin, and Dayman Blackburn was dosed with 6.3 times the approved dosage. Again, these Plaintiffs were suffering from COVID-19, not parasites.”
  • “They [the defendants] contend that because Plaintiffs voluntarily swallowed the pills they were given in the WCDC to treat COVID-19, they were not “forced” to take ivermectin. This argument is absurd.”
  • “The Court finds that the facts in the Amended Complaint, if true, shock the conscience.”
  • “The Court also finds that a reasonable doctor or sheriff would have understood, given the Supreme Court precedent in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261, 278 (1990), and Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221–22 (1990), that it was clearly established in fall 2020 that administering an experimental drug to prisoners without their knowledge would violate their due process rights. Qualified immunity is therefore denied. This is not a close call.”

The Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use by people and animals for some parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions. The FDA has not approved its use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. According to the FDA, side effects of the drug include skin rash, nausea, and vomiting.

Health officials have said the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19.

Parts of this article were contributed by the Associated Press.

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