The Seattle Times has reported that Washington state has agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a 63-year-old inmate who died at Monroe Correctional Complex after his cancer was untreated for over one year. The man died on June 12, 2019 from breast cancer that had metastasized throughout his body after a lump was discovered in his left breast in May 2018 but he was provided no treatment.
An Investigative Report from the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) dated November 15, 2019 stated: “On March 18, 2019, the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) received a complaint, on behalf of the incarcerated individual involved, which alleged the following: The complainant alleged that his friend reported to medical at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) when he was feeling ill and a lump was discovered in his breast. He further alleged that it took months of pushback by his friend to get an appointment to address the lump, get a biopsy, or biopsy results. Further, when the incarcerated friend was finally seen by an oncologist he was told to he needed to start chemotherapy immediately. Two months later his friend collapsed in his cell and learned that the cancer had spread. No cancer care had been provided by DOC. The incarcerated person has since passed.”
The OCO stated the following chronology in its report:
When the lump was discovered by a Registered Nurse (RN) at an unrelated medical appointment in March 2018, no action was taken to address the lump past the notification of the discovery to higher level staff. Those individuals notified also took no action. The patient was not seen by medical staff to address the lump for two more months when he signed up to be seen for sick call and was evaluated by a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).
Three months after the lump was discovered and one month after the patient was seen by an LPN to address the lump, the patient is seen for the first time by a Physician Assistant Certified (PA-C) regarding the lump in June 2018. The PA-C identifies urgent needs at this visit relating to mammography and ultrasound of the lump. It takes another month for these “urgent” needs to be satisfied. A recommendation for an ultrasound guided core biopsy is recommended as a result of these diagnostic procedures. It is another month before this biopsy is done.
The guided core biopsy takes place in August 2018, and identifies an invasive carcinoma and recommends surgical and oncological follow-up. The report notes that DOC staff have been notified and DOC reports that they will arrange the surgical and oncological follow-up. This report is not signed as received by DOC medical staff for fifteen days. The surgical follow-up was never scheduled but the oncology consultation takes place twenty-seven days later.
Following the guided core biopsy, an Emergency Consultation Request/Report is submitted asking for a CT scan with contrast of chest, abdomen, and pelvis in August 2018. This “emergency” request was not approved by the Facility Medical Director for ten days and it will be a further 60 days before the procedure is done.
Thirteen days after the cancer has been identified through the biopsy in August, the patient reports to medical on an unrelated complaint. It is noted at this visit that the patient has not been informed that he has cancer. The attending provider informs him of his diagnosis at this visit.
Upon seeing an oncologist for consultation in August 2018, almost six months after the lump was discovered, the patient is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and makes the following recommendations for follow-up and treatment: Complete staging work-up, CT scan of chest, abdomen, pelvis, a brain MRI, and a bone scan; Port-placement for chemotherapy; Refer to surgeon and radiation oncologist; Genetic counseling; Start chemotherapy ASAP.
DOC took the following actions on the oncologist’s recommendations: The staging work-up was done; The CT and bone scan were done two months after the consultation recommendation.
DOC did not take action on the following recommendations: Brain MRI; Port-placement; Surgical and radiation oncologist consult; Genetic counseling; Chemotherapy.
Eight months after the lump was discovered, and almost three months after the oncologist recommends treatment ASAP, no treatment has been done. At this time the patient signs a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order and requests comfort measures only.
The patient expires in June 2019, fifteen months after the lump was discovered having never been treated.
Upon interviewing the external oncologist who assessed the patient, OCO learned that if the patient had been treated promptly and prior to the oncological consultation almost six months after discovery of the lump, his life expectancy would likely have been extended. This incarcerated individual had an earned release date of December 2020.
If you or a loved one were harmed due to deliberate indifference or the lack of appropriate medical care while incarcerated in a prison, jail, or other correctional facility in Washington or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice lawyer in your state who handles prisoner/inmate medical malpractice claims and may investigate your claim and represent you or your loved one, if appropriate.
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