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Connecticut DOC Settles Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit for $1.3 Million

by Dale Chappell

After misdiagnosing a prisoner’s skin cancer as psoriasis for years and refusing to perform tests when treatment was not working, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the prisoner’s lawsuit.

While held at the Osborn Correctional Institution, state prisoner Wayne World sought medical treatment in 2013 for multiple skin lesions all over his body. Improperly diagnosed as psoriasis, medical staff kept increasing his medications as the lesions kept getting worse, but refused to order more tests or allow World to see a specialist. Finally, in 2015, following numerous requests from both World and his mother, a biopsy was approved and World was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer. Further testing revealed the cancer had spread to his organs, including his liver.

World filed suit in federal court in March 2016, claiming the DOC’s delay in proper treatment and misdiagnosis of his cancer violated his constitutional rights. In his complaint, World wrote that “he is now diagnos[ed] with cancer, as a result of delay, and could [possibly have] lost the window of opportunity in which medically necessary and meaningful treatment could have been afforded ... to prevent and/or delay the effect of cancer.”

Rather than take its chances in court, the DOC settled with World for $1.3 million in August 2018. As part of the agreement, the DOC admitted no wrongdoing and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office refused to comment on the settlement. See: World v. Semple, U.S.D.C. (D. Conn.), Case No. 3:16-cv-00519-JCH.

“Prisoners are people. They do not check their medical rights at the door,” said Kenneth J. Krayeske, one of World’s attorneys. The decision to settle was a tough one, DeVaughn Ward, World’s other lawyer, noted. World has a 16-year-old son and had to weigh his options. “His medical condition is week-to-week,” Ward said. They could have litigated for a year or two, or settle now and ensure a win, he pointed out.

World’s cancer misdiagnosis was one of 25 “extreme medical deficiencies” identified by a consultant in a report for the DOC. Nine of those cases involved deaths, Ward noted. “We hope this settlement and the media attention it has generated will wake up the State Legislature,” he said.

World, 39, who was serving a 17-year sentence for manslaughter, was released on medical parole on May 7, 2018 after spending around a dozen years in prison.

“I appreciate what was done for me but I feel for what I went through that I deserved more than what we settled for,” he stated.

In June 2018, shortly before the settlement in World’s lawsuit, the DOC’s newly-hired medical director, Dr. Joseph Breton, resigned after just three months. He had expressed concerns over the quality of medical care provided to prisoners, including in World’s case. Last year, Connecticut’s prison system began providing healthcare services itself; previously, it had contracted with UConn Health under a $100 million annual contract. 


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