Inmate in race with time to save foot

Rain Gustavsoni veresoontehaigusest räsitud jalg vajaks kiiret operatsiooni. Pikka aega raviti seda aga hoopis vale diagnoosi alusel.

PHOTO: Rain Gustavson

Falsely diagnosed, after years of treatment a crook is found to suffer of a disease totally different. The prison in which he cannot be helped wants to set the man free but the court says no.

«The next stage of this disease is amputation of the foot,» says an experienced crook Rain Gustavson, counting the days to his release in Viru Prison. The man has one more year to go. Having tricked people using false identity in days past, he is now faced with a big problem of his own. 

In March, doctors at Tartu Maarjamõisa Hospital diagnosed him with something shocking – for two years, he has been getting the wrong treatment in prison. The real disease is totally different, far advanced, and not treated in Estonia.

«The doctor Meelis Jakobson who was supposed to perform surgery on my foot in Tartu said that if I were not a prisoner, he’d immediately send me abroad for an operation,» relates Mr Gustavson.

Past too bad

According to Mr Gustavson’s attending physician, the closest place for the surgery would be Finland. Mr Gustavson, however, is doing time in Viru Prison. The prison is indeed supportive of setting the inmate free, but the court is against. The past of Mr Gustavson, 11 earlier criminal punishments under his belt, is too spotted that say.

Meanwhile a mere month ago, the future looked rather bright for Mr Gustavson. After many years of battling the pain and disputed with prison doctors who didn’t seem to take a thorough approach, a solution was on the horizon.

This here is already the second article in Postimees related to his health problems. The man says it was after the initial article, a year ago, that they started to pay more attention to his foot swollen and full of pain.

In mid-March, an operation was planned in Tartu Maarjamõisa Hospital, supposed to remove the benign tumour on his right foot. From Jõhvi open prison, on his own Mr Gustavson travelled to Tartu and returned sooner than expected. In deep depression.

«The surgery was cancelled as it could have made it worse,» says Mr Gustavson. «My new diagnosis is arteriovenous malformation, of artery on right foot. The papers say the treatment of this requires experimental treatment.»

According to him, the attending physician said the disease will develop further and may, in worst scenario, require amputation of the foot. Therefore, his prison term ending on April 12th 2016, Mr Gustavson is in a race with time and here the situation enters the realm of the absurd. According to the spirit of the law, Mr Gustavson might have walked free a year ago. As the opportunity opened, the crook with swollen foot immediately filed application to management of the prison.

The prison supported Mr Gustavson as, in prison, he attended many a social programme, even helped with chores before falling ill and would have lodging at mother and father upon release. The man’s probation supervisor thought the same. 

Prosecutor’s Office, however, says the man’s earlier 11 criminal punishments show he is a danger to society. The earlier punishments, they say, have had no effect on the man’s behaviour and he is highly likely to continue the criminal life once released.

To this, the court agreed, citing that twice during probation period Mr Gustavson had committed a new crime, had violated probation supervision rules on one occasion, and it was therefore unlikely for him to lead a law-abiding life once released.

«The court underlines that health condition of an individual is not by itself a decisive circumstance for premature release as in custodial institutions medical care must be provided on equal level as at liberty and in prisons medical care is guaranteed by law,» declared the court.

Sickness is insufficient

Understood. In March, Mr Gustavson hoped his second appeal for release would do better. «I even had a job out there. Support staff in retail,» he says. «With my sick foot, I could drive the forklift.»

This time also, the prison supported Mr Gustavson. «The prison went by risk assessment of the inmate, evaluating his level of dangerousness and he risks of a new crime committed. Also, we considered the person of the inmate and the fact that while behaviour check he agreed to undergo addiction treatment,» said justice ministry.

Alas, again the answer was no. «Not reliable enough,» cites Mr Gustavson. Ten days later, he got his new diagnosis, demanding experimental treatment.

A glance at the man’s criminal register makes it hard to argue with the court claiming he is unreliable and not law-abiding. However, another court assessment now comes into play, the one based on former false diagnosis. As Mr Gustavson claimed his sickness as a cause for release, the court said this was not a serious reason as any medical treatment must be guaranteed in prison.

«Now, it turns out even the best doctors in Tartu cannot cure me, to say nothing about those in the prison,» says Mr Gustavson. «During two years, they have fed me 37 different pills and smeared my swollen foot with 12 various ointments. What miracle would now be in store for me to be healed here?»

For Mr Gustavson, a year and ten days remain to sit in Viru Prison.

Rain Gustavson

  • Criminally punished 11 times (theft, fraud, handling large quantities of drugs as part of a group, falsification of a document, abuse of identity card, drunk driving, drug use). Physically imprisoned for the second time.
  • 30 punishments for misdemeanour.
  • 1 disciplinary punishment while in prison (ignoring order by prison staff).