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California Prison System Settles Untreated Cancer Case for Undisclosed Sum

A settlement was reached in a lawsuit claiming prison medical personnel failed to provide treatment for a growing cancerous lump in a prisoner’s neck.

When Dean L. Brooks, a prisoner at California’s Calipatria State Prison, noticed a lump on his neck in December 1996, he went to sick call at the prison’s clinic. The nurse, Katrenia Sweet, told him it was a mere bug bite and not to worry about it. Nearly every day thereafter through February 1997, Brooks went to sick call.

When he did see a doctor, he was put on a list to see a surgeon. Months passed as the lump grew. A guard’s intervention resulted in medical care that included an MRI, which revealed the lump was cancerous. Surgery occurred on May 7, 1997, but the lump was not removed. In June, Brooks learned the lump was not malignant.

A second lump developed. Another prison doctor saw Brooks in November 1997, and found the first lump doubled in size. Finally, in December 1997 a biopsy revealed the lumps were malignant, with an official diagnosis of nasopharynageal epidermoid carcinoma with matasteses to the neck.

Brooks underwent 72 treatments that consisted of radiation and surgery, which caused him to lose portions of both the left and right sides of his neck. Afterwards, his prison doctor, Dr. Martin E. Levin, ignored orders for Brooks to receive quarterly check-ups, and orders for x-rays and blood tests.

As a result of the settlement, the matter was dismissed with prejudice on March 10, 2004. Details of the settlement are unavailable. Brooks was represented by LaJolla attorney, Daniel S. Silverman. See: Brooks v. Jorgenson, USDC, S.D. California, Case No: 02 CV 1326H.

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Related legal case

Brooks v. Jorgenson