WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will decide whether the family of a now-deceased immigrant who was denied medical care for cancer while in custody can sue federal medical officials for damages.
The case could have far-reaching implications for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel working for governments.
Francisco Castaneda, a Salvadoran immigrant, was denied a biopsy for a painful lesion on his penis for 11 months while in prison, despite the recommendation of several doctors. He was later diagnosed with penile cancer, had his penis amputated and died at age 36.
The federal government has admitted liability for medical negligence. Castaneda and his estate also sued individual medical officials for damages, but the government says the law requires any action to come under the Federal Torts Claim Act.
Under that law, damages cannot be awarded against individuals, punitive damages are not allowed, and the case would not be heard before a jury. The medical officials named asked a federal judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to throw out the lawsuits, but the lower courts refused.