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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Medical negligence acknowledged in detainee's cancer death: A lawsuit

The federal government has acknowledged it was negligent in the death of an immigrant whose cancer went undiagnosed for nearly a year while he was in custody at the San Diego Correctional Facility.

The government last week acknowledged medical negligence, an allegation contained in a lawsuit filed by the family of Francisco Castaneda, 36.

"Was there medical negligence and we're saying yes," U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said yesterday. The claim carries maximum damages of $250,000, he said.

Francisco, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, was placed in immigration custody after serving an eight-month state prison sentence on a 2005 drug conviction. While at the San Diego facility, he notified immigration officials that he had a large, painful, growing lesion.
Despite recommendations from several doctors, the cancer was never biopsied and Francisco received no treatment except for pain pills during his 11 months in detention, government records indicated.

Francisco was released last year, went to a hospital and was diagnosed with metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. He died in February.

Advice to families of detainees: Advocate vigorously for your relative's health while they are in custody.

Read another detainee’s story.

Thanks to the Associated Press for the source story, printed today in SignOnSanDiego.com. Staff writers Jose Luis Jiménez, Pauline Repard, Mike Lee and Sandra Dibble contributed to this report.

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