LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit against the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC), Tim Helder, Sheriff of Washington County, and Dr. Robert Karas.
The lawsuit charges the defendants for administering Ivermectin to incarcerated individuals without prior informed consent as to the nature, contents, or potential side effects of the drug, according to a press release from the ACLU. Plaintiffs in the case include Edrick Floreal-Wooten, Jeremiah Little, Julio Gonzales, and Dayman Blackburn who allege they were deceived over a period of days and possibly weeks, regarding an unknown dose of Ivermectin. The lawsuit states they were told the alleged treatment consisted of “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids.”
No one, including incarcerated individuals, should be deceived and subject to medical experimentation. Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter, and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated individuals. The Federal Food and Drug Administration has said that misuse of Ivermectin for COVID-19 can cause serious harm including seizures, comas, and even death. The detention center failed to use safe and appropriate treatments for COVID-19, even in the midst of a pandemic, and they must be held accountable.Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas
The lawsuit finds that incarcerated individuals were given Ivermectin as early as November 2020 and became aware of the treatment in July 2021. In August 2021 at a Quorum Court Finance & Budget Committee, Sheriff Helder confirmed that Karas Correctional Health had been prescribing Ivermectin as a treatment at WCDC.
Gary Sullivan with the ACLU of Arkansas said the detainees were denied their constitutional rights by not being told anything about ivermectin before being administered it.
“We are asking the court to declare that this practice was unconstitutional,” Sullivan said. “It’s a violation of the due process rights that these detainees have, just because you’re in jail or prison, you do not give up basic human rights.”
According to the lawsuit, the four detainees suffered side effects from ivermectin including vision loss, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
Sarah Moore with the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition said the detainees had no other option for getting treatment while at the jail.
“It’s really concerning to me that just because they were accused of something and we’re sitting, waiting to go forward with their charges, that they didn’t have any other access to health care and that was all that was offered to them,” Moore said.
The FDA has warned against using the drug to treat COVID-19, stating, “FDA has not approved Ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an antiviral (a drug for treating viruses).”
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.
The Washington County Sherriff and Dr. Robert Karas declined to comment on the lawsuit.