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Misdiagnosis of Cancer While Incarcerated

A troubling contradiction exists within the United States correctional system. While incarcerated individuals are exponentially more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses like cancer, they are continually subjected to inadequate health care and worse health outcomes than members of the general population. For example, mortality rates for cancer in incarcerated men and women are 1.6 and 1.4 times higher, respectively, than that of the general population.

This is especially problematic, from a legal standpoint, when taking into consideration that inmates within the United States have a constitutionally guaranteed right to “adequate health care” under Eighth Amendment protections from “cruel and unusual punishment,” at a level consistent with “modern medical science.”

Why Correctional Facilities Misdiagnose Cancer

Despite these guarantees, while Bureau of Justice Statistics data suggests that roughly 50% of the United States correctional facility population suffers from chronic illnesses like cancer, an American Journal of Public Health investigation found that more than 20% of state prison inmates, 68% of jail inmates, and 14% of federal prison inmates have never seen a physician during their incarceration.

In instances where inmates are evaluated by physicians, financial and logistical disincentives to perform diagnostic testing, often result in months-long waiting periods to see a qualified specialist, inadequate evaluations, and rampant misdiagnoses of chronic and life-threatening illnesses, like cancer. This is especially prominent in correctional facilities that outsource their medical care to private correctional healthcare providers, whose primary focus is maximizing profits – and have been the subject of a multitude of lawsuits alleging they employ unqualified, untrained, and unfit staff – at the expense of inmates’ health and well-being.

Misdiagnosis of Cancer is Unconstitutional

Failure to provide inmates with timely and continuous access to physician care, in and of itself, constitutes a constitutional deprivation and breach of both the Federal Bureau of Prisons and American Bar Association standards on the treatment of prisoners, which may be the subject of negligence litigation.

Correctional facilities and their healthcare providers may also be held liable for injuries inflicted directly or worsened by correctional healthcare provider’s errors, like misdiagnosis of cancer and other chronic illnesses, in medical malpractice litigation. Medical malpractice litigation can be challenging, as it includes a significant burden of proof for injured claimants (inmates).

Bringing a Medical Malpractice Claim

In order to bring a medical malpractice claim against a correctional facility or healthcare provider, inmates (or their estates) who suffer serious injury or death from misdiagnosed cancer, must demonstrate:

  • The misdiagnosis and delay in treatment resulted in preventable injury or the worsening of an existing injury
  • An earlier diagnosis and/or treatment would’ve prevented or limited the injuries suffered
  • A reasonable doctor, in similar circumstances, would most likely have timely diagnosed the inmate’s cancer
  • The doctor failed to perform appropriate tests or seek opinions from specialists which could have assisted in the diagnosis of the inmate

How Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC Can Help

In order to determine the actionability of any potential claims and explore potential litigation options prior to filing a complaint, it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced prison medical malpractice attorney. Our legal team has extensive experience representing those who have been injured by negligent medical staff or who have been provided substandard medical care.

The team of prison medical malpractice and negligence trial attorneys at Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC has litigated a wide array of claims against correctional facilities and their healthcare providers, resulting in many multi-million-dollar awards for our clients. If a loved one or someone you know suffered preventable injuries or death related to a correctional facility’s misdiagnosis of their cancer while incarcerated, Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC is here to help. To learn more about our process, contact Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC at (503) 226-6361 or fill out our online intake form today to schedule a free case evaluation consultation.

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