- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Department of Corrections spent $1.27 million in six months on medical care for six comatose inmates last year — and that’s not counting more than $1,000 per day for each guard it cost for security.

The debate raging in Florida over whether Terri Schiavo wished to die — and who should decide her fate if she is unable to — is also the debate going on in the California prison system, said state Democratic Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero.

One inmate who was at Delano Regional Medical Center from Nov. 7, 2003, until he died Jan. 12, cost the department $851,880 by the end of the year.

The state may need to find a way for inmates to sign release forms to indicate their health care wishes and do a better job notifying family members, said Miss Romero, who plans an April 14 hearing on the problem.

Although inmates are in state custody, private doctors make medical decisions once inmates go to outside hospitals, and there is often confusion over when family members should be brought in to help with care decisions.

“It becomes very difficult because nobody knows who’s in charge,” Miss Romero said.

That was the case with Daniel Provencio, 28, who was treated under guard for 29 days after he was shot in the head with a supposedly nonlethal foam bullet in a Jan. 16 prison altercation. His medical care cost more than $100,000, not including $30,624 in security costs, according to the department.

Provencio’s case was unique because he was guarded and treated for 25 days after doctors declared him brain dead, four days after the shooting, department director Jeanne Woodford wrote to Miss Romero.

Miss Woodford said a task force will review the department policy.

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