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The health of disgraced mega-producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein has decreased in recent yearsAt least according to himself and his lawyers: The former film executive, who now uses a wheelchair, is said to be losing his vision and has also complained of a number of dental ailments. And now, as Weinstein awaits a series of upcoming court proceedings, he is reportedly begging the court to release him for emergency dental care.
“This situation is an emergency,” Weinstein told the court on Wednesday. according to the New York Post. “I will pay for the dentist… it will be a trip and only a trip.”
“I have pain every day. I have cavities and I can’t eat because I have missing teeth,” he continued, adding that the prison has given him two options: have his teeth pulled and not replaced, or suffer from exhausting toothaches and any accompanying side effects.
We’ll start this off by saying yes, Weinstein is clearly a monster. Objectively so. he is already serving a 23-year sentence for three sex offense convictions, and is currently in trial for 11 additional charges of rape and assault. If for some reason I had to make a list of people who deserve teeth more than others, we are sure that Weinstein would not be among the first.
That said, it is not a question of whether certain individuals deserve teeth or not. That is a very dangerous thing to ask, and something that no one should be asking. US law states that those in prison have the right to necessary medical, dental, and mental health services, and pulling out someone’s rotten teeth and calling it a day, or letting decayed teeth painfully rot, seems far from proper medical care. So Weinstein’s ordeal, terrible as the man may be, calls into question the larger issue of the prison healthcare system.
“Inmates are really heavy users of medical services,” said Nicholas Scharff, a prison doctor. told a public radio station called WHY in 2021. “They’ve had a lot of physical trauma. So they have a lot of orthopedic issues, a lot of chronic pain. They have a lot of psychological trauma. And they have a real burden of other illnesses, less in line with the general population.”
Schaff is right. Afflictions like addiction and mental illness are often the reason people are incarcerated in the first place, and as of 2021, more than 40 percent of incarcerated people suffered from a chronic illness. The American prison population, the largest prison population in the world, by an outright slide, is also disproportionately black, brown, and poor, which are all factors that play an important role in health outcomes.
And it’s often difficult for people to get the services they need, a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic so painfully illustrated. Studies have revealed a deep distrust between prisoners and prison staff, while other research has argued that there is a carelesstraining and adequate allocation of resources top to bottom.
“What I would do to get healthy was just drink the water from the sink in my cell,” Adnan Khan, the founder of Re:Store Justice, told the station in the same story. “Because I already knew that the help I needed [would] will not be able to provide for me.”
Again, this is not a case of sympathy for Harvey Weinstein. Terrible guy. But his dental ordeal, and the pleas he has made for proper care, are emblematic of a problem much bigger than himself. After all, access to medical and dental care are human rights. And when we start asking questions about who deserves teeth and who doesn’t, it can lead us down a dangerous path.
READ MORE: Harvey Weinstein asks the judge for an appointment with a private dentist or false teeth to look more ‘presentable’ before the sex crimes trial: ‘This situation is an emergency’ [Business Insider]