Janesville62.4°

Sick Rock County inmate released for surgery

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GINA R. HEINE
January 27, 2011
— Rock County taxpayers won't be paying for the surgery of a jail inmate who the district attorney says turned himself in after years on the run to get treatment for his stage four cancer.

Sheriff Bob Spoden wanted Anthony S. Darwin released from jail so county taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill for his medical care and because the county doesn't have a facility to provide the level of care Darwin needs.


"It's really a balancing test of trying to do the humane thing, trying to adhere to responsibilities of the office of sheriff, and at the same time trying to be a good steward of the taxpayers dollars," Spoden said after Wednesday's hearing.


District Attorney David O'Leary, before he knew the seriousness of Darwin's health conditions, expressed concern over releasing Darwin.


Defense attorney Jack Hoag said Darwin needed treatment and preferred to be released.


Darwin, 30, Janesville, is scheduled for surgery at University Hospital in Madison today after Judge Alan Bates ordered him released on a signature bond during an emergency hearing Wednesday.


Darwin had been in the Rock County Jail on an $8,000 cash bond for five pending cases—four of which are felony charges—including robbery and battery.


He had been on the run for six years until he turned himself in Jan. 10, O'Leary said.


"He turned himself in because he wanted treatment for his medical conditions," he said. "He wanted us to pay for them. So, we have to, to an extent. He's got a diagnosis, now."


The sheriff's office is responsible for providing medical care, including dental and prescriptions, to anyone in custody, Spoden said.


Darwin does not have insurance. It was not clear how his medical bills from University Hospital would be covered.


Bates said the cost to taxpayers for Darwin's treatment was a factor in his decision, but taxpayers likely would be paying the bill no matter if Darwin was in jail or out.


Costs so far associated with Darwin's care are unknown, Spoden said. A sheriff's deputy transported Darwin to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center for treatment, which requires the deputy to stay at the room.


Mercy referred Darwin to University Hospital, which has a locked unit where inmates can be treated without a deputy. Darwin received a CT scan to confirm he has testicular cancer.


Darwin's prognosis is "quite bleak" because the cancer has spread to other organs, said Dr. Karen Butler of Advanced Correctional Health Care, who testified by telephone Wednesday. She was the doctor who treated Darwin at the jail.


After today's surgery, Darwin will need chemotherapy to shrink a massive tumor, Butler said. She said he had "some chance" of survival if he received immediate treatment, including chemotherapy.


The situation became urgent after Darwin's visit Tuesday to University Hospital, where doctors scheduled him for surgery today. Because everything happened so fast, Spoden said Darwin likely didn't know the extent of his medical problems, which Butler detailed in court.


Darwin appeared in orange jail clothing, wiping his face with tissue as his conditions were revealed. Members of his family cried in the back row of the courtroom.


The need for safety and consideration to Darwin's victims along with compassion for Darwin all played a role in the hearing, authorities said.


O'Leary expressed concern for Darwin's victims because of his history of posting bond and running, then committing more crimes. O'Leary said he was less concerned after hearing Darwin's prognosis.


Darwin is fatigued and inactive, Butler said she learned through conversations with Darwin and confirmed with nurses. He also would not be able to do routine tasks after surgery and during chemotherapy without the assistance of others, she said.


Darwin has a preliminary court hearing scheduled for Monday. If Darwin isn't in the hospital, he had better be in court, Bates said.


The situation points to the need for jail renovations now underway, Spoden said. When the building was designed in the 1980s, the level of care provided to inmates was minor, he said.


"It's another reason why we needed to move forward with the medical renovation because we just don't have any type of medical area to house anyone with any kind of serious (conditions)," he said.


The majority of inmates at the Rock County Jail do not have insurance, Spoden said. The county last year paid $700,000 for its contracted medical services with Advanced Correctional Health Care.



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