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Articles by Eike Blohm, MD

Guantanamo Bay Detainees Subjected to Forced Rectal Feeding and Hydration

by Eike Blohm MD

Pretrial hearings in February 2023 at Guantánamo Bay in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri – the man accused of devising the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole – included a stunning revelation: Detainees at the U.S. military base in Cuba were repeatedly subjected to sexual ...

Prisoner Health Update: Hemorrhoids

by Eike Blohm, MD

Hemorrhoids are a very common problem that people do not like to talk about because of their intimate location. Hemorrhoids are both preventable and treatable, but can become significant health problems if ignored.

What exactly is a hemorrhoid?

A hemorrhoid is a vein that has been ...

Prisoner Health Update: Over-the-Counter Medications

by Eike Blohm, MD

Various medications are available to prisoners for purchase in commissaries and can be taken without instructions from medical staff. Yet taken incorrectly, these medications may have significant adverse effects or result in false positive drug tests, leading to loss of good time and potentially solitary confinement.


Acetaminophen (Tylenol ®) is one of the most frequently used analgesics (pain reliever) in the U.S. It also has antipyretic (fever reducing) effects. Despite decades of use, it is still not entirely understood how it actually works. Likely, it modulates the sensation of pain in the brain rather than working at the site where the pain originates. A person can safely take 1,000 mg three times a day if the doses are spaced six-to-eight hours apart. In normal dosing, acetaminophen does not damage the liver and even people with cirrhosis (liver scarring) can safely take the medication. However, using more than 6,000 mg a day can lead to liver damage.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

In addition to treating pain and fever, NSAIDs also fight inflammation. The process of inflammation is integral to the body repairing damaged tissue (e.g., ankle sprain) and fighting infection (e.g., cellulitis). Unlike acetaminophen, NSAIDs actually address ...

Prisoner Health Update: HIV

by Eike Blohm, MD

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is highly overrepresented among U.S. prisoners, along with other infectious illnesses such as MRSA, Hepatitis-C and tuberculosis. [See: PLN, Jan. 2023, p.38; Feb. 2023, p.52; and June 2023, p.41.]

The high prevalence of HIV among prisoners is due to the selective incarceration of Americans who struggle with intravenous substance use, as well as a lack of mandatory and universal testing protocols in prisons.

After an initial outbreak infected five gay men in Los Angeles in June 1981, the then-unknown disease was called GRIDS: gay-related immunodeficiency syndrome. Coinciding with what was then still a young movement for gay rights, HIV/AIDS became stigmatized as a punishment for what many religious people view as sinful and immoral behavior. Sadly, the negative impact of this stigmatization persists even today.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is a virus transmitted from one person to another by blood, usually due to unprotected sexual intercourse or sharing needles (e.g., during tattooing or drug use). It cannot be transmitted through casual contact such as shaking hands or exchanging hugs, nor by inanimate objects such as toilets seats or drinking cups. Thus, an HIV-positive cellmate does not pose an infection risk ...

Tennessee DOC Coughs Up Video of Condemned Prisoner Who Severed Own Penis

by Eike Blohm, MD

After a month of foot-dragging, the Tennessee Department of Corrections (DOC) complied with a court order on February 24, 2023, releasing surveillance video of a death-row prisoner who cut off his own penis and was then left strapped to a foam mattress in his cell.

Henry Hodges, 56, pleaded guilty in 1990 to murdering a man in Nashville who allegedly accepted Hodges’ proposition for paid sex. With testimony at his sentencing from his 15-year-old girlfriend, who participated in the killing, Hodges was condemned.

Over the next three decades, DOC documented his extensive history of mental illness with recurrent psychotic episodes – including one in early October 2022, when Hodges began smearing feces on his cell walls at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (RMSI). Instead of treating his psychosis, staff simply withheld food. Four days later he slit his wrists. He begged medical staff to place him on suicide watch, but he was bandaged and returned to his cell instead.

In the midst of his decompensated psychosis, Hodges then used a piece of broken window glass and razor blades he’d secreted in his cell to cut off his penis. After surgery to reattach it, he was kept naked ...

$150,000 Verdict for South Carolina Jail Detainee’s Groin Injury During Pat-Down

by Eike Blohm

After turning down offers to settle for far less, South Carolina’s Aiken County wound up on the losing side of a $150,000 verdict on November 4, 2022, after a state court jury found that a guard at the county lockup crushed a detainee’s scrotum during a rough pat-down. No criminal charges have been filed in the incident. But following the verdict, long-time Sheriff Michael Hunt announced in January 2023 that he would not seek re-election to a sixth term.

Otis Owens was detained at Aiken County Detention Center in late January 2017 when he returned from the recreation yard and was subjected to a pat-down. Guard Timothy Gibson bizarrely probed Owens’ belly button before running his hands up Owens’ legs, grabbing his scrotum and testicles and squeezing hard.

Left in pain, Owens requested medical treatment. But he didn’t receive any until after his release. On February 24, 2017, according to the complaint he later filed, “a sonogram revealed that [he] had sustained injuries to his groin and that fluid had accumulated around his testicles.”

While sonography cannot distinguish between types of fluid – it may be blood, seminal fluid or another serous fluid accumulation – the presence ...

Arizona Prison Forcibly Induced Labor for Pregnant Prisoners

by Eike Blohm, MD

After a 2019 incident during which a prisoner gave birth in her cell – delivering a baby into the toilet while guards ignored her cries for help – Arizona’s Perryville Prison in Buckeye started inducing labor for pregnant prisoners.

Inducing labor involves intravenous administration of drugs that cause uterine contractions. These contractions can be more painful than those of spontaneous labor and carry a higher risk of soft tissue tears. NaphCare, the Alabama-based private firm that holds the contract to provide healthcare for the state Department of Corrections (DOC), told the Arizona Republic it had no such policy. So this apparently happened before DOC dropped its former private healthcare contractor, Centurion, at the end of September 2022. [See: PLN, Dec. 2022, p.1]

An investigation by the news outlet revealed that three women were induced against their will at Perryville. While the procedure is generally safe for mother and baby at full term – typically 40 weeks – doing so before 38 weeks is reserved for high-risk pregnancies, such as when a woman suffers from diabetes or pre-eclampsia. Yet two of the deliveries at Perryville were induced at 37 weeks, both in the absence of medical ...

Prisoner Health Update: Tuberculosis

by Eike Blohm, MD

Tuberculosis (TB) is an illness caused by a mycobacterium, a class of bacteria that is hard to see under the microscope, difficult to grow in culture, and has the audacity to live in the very immune cells (marcophages) that are tasked with hunting and killing bacteria. TB affects only humans, and traces of the disease can be identified by archeologists in the oldest mummified human remains.

How is TB transmitted?

The bacterium travels in the microscopicdroplets that get expelled when an infected person coughs. These droplets can be so small that they travel right through the holes in cloth masks, and only N95 masks offer protection. Fortunately, inhalation of a single droplet does not suffice to transmit the infection. Exposure in close quarters – such as prison – is usually needed to facilitate the spread of TB.

What happens when a person gets exposed?

There are three possible outcomes after exposure. The body’s immune system may kill all TB bacteria, and the infection is cleared. Or the TB bacteria may overpower the body’s defenses, and the person develops ACTIVE tuberculosis. It’s also possible that a stalemate ensues – a situation known as LATENT tuberculosis. A person ...

No More Naps for Massachusetts Guards

By Eike Blohm, MD

After two years of negotiations between the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC), an agreement was reached on December 20, 2022, to fix atrocious mental health care in state prisons, which the Feds consider so “cruel and unusual” that it violates the Eighth Amendment rights of state prisoners.

On November 17, 2020, at the conclusion of a two-year investigation by its Civil Rights Division, DOJ issued a notice finding DOC in violation of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §1997, by allegedly failing to provide constitutionally adequate supervision and care of prisoners in mental health crisis. [See: PLN, May 2021, p.29.]

While state prison officials denied any wrongdoing, they entered negotiations with DOJ to avoid litigation. The agreement reached grants DOC 18 months to rewrite its policies and train staff accordingly, as well as hire additional guards and mental health staff.

Specifically, the agreement requires DOC to hire sufficient guards to ensure prisoners in mental health crisis can still get escorted to out-of-cell activities such as recreation and therapy.

Importantly – incredibly even – the agreement also spells out that guards must not sleep while providing ...

Prisoner Health Update: K2

by Eike Blohm, MD

Drugs are ubiquitous behind prison walls, but screening of items sent to prisoners and random drug testing incentivizes the use of substances difficult to detect and easy to conceal. Synthetic cannabinoids, known under numerous monikers such as K2 and Spice, fill that niche.

Originally synthesized by ...