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Terminal Texas Prisoner’s Morphine Withdrawn After He Filed Sexual Harassment Complaint

by Matt Clarke

A Texas prisoner with a rare and virtually untreatable form of leukemia filed a sexual harassment complaint against a medical provider. Then the morphine he was being given for the pain caused by his terminal cancer was cut off, he alleged in a pro se lawsuit.

Jeremy Heath Needum, 44, had already spent a decade in prison for aggravated assault on a public servant, resisting arrest and endangering a child, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The cancer, for which there is no clearly defined treatment, caused him to be hospitalized a dozen times since his diagnosis in 2016. He eventually ended up in palliative care, receiving morphine every few hours for pain.

In fall 2018, Needum was transferred to the 1,100-bed Jester III Unit in Richmond. There, he said, a member of the medical staff questioned his use of morphine and reduced his dosage from 90-milligram tablets to 30-milligram tablets. Needum began to repeatedly complain about being in pain.

In December 2018, he filed a complaint pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, alleging a medical provider had sexually harassed him. According to Needum, after he filed the complaint, a medical staff member threatened to stop treating him. Then, on February 13, 2019, he was taken off morphine altogether without any provisions for withdrawal. Four days later he was discovered on the floor of his cell “in severe pain” due to withdrawal symptoms. The next day he was transported to OakBend Medical Center.

In April 2019, Needum filed a pro se federal civil rights lawsuit against nine prison and University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) employees. UTMB provides health care services for most Texas state prisoners. The complaint alleges the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Needum’s serious medical needs; he is seeking unspecified monetary damages and has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to require prison officials to give him morphine for his ongoing pain. See: Needum v. Davis, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Tex.), Case No. 4:19-cv-01435.

“The providers only see plaintiff as a burden; a drug-user seeking drugs,” Needum stated in one of his court pleadings. “They did and do not see plaintiff as a terminally ill cancer patient in palliative care.” 



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Related legal case

Needum v. Davis