BSO Inmate's Bungled Cancer Diagnosis Leads to Lawsuit

Not a place you want to go through a cancer bout.
Not a place you want to go through a cancer bout.
Gorge720 via wikimedia commons

It's always unsettling when your doctor gets it wrong. You can multiply that feeling by 100 whenever cancer is involved. But according to one former inmate in the custody of the Broward Sheriff's Office, not only did BSO's medical provider bungle a cancer diagnosis, they failed to provide the agonized inmate with timely care -- or at least that's what is alleged in a recent federal lawsuit.

Dana Aiello's stay in question with BSO went from January 2012 to November 2013, apparently on trafficking oxycodone and morphine charges. This wasn't his first run-in with law enforcement. According to court records, Aiello's record stretches back to 1990, and includes everything from possession to battery on law enforcement to domestic violence.

But according to the lawsuit, Aiello was incarcerated in late January 2012 with a lesion on his upper back. When BSO's medical provider -- Armor Correctional Health Services -- examined the inmate, he was diagnosed with melanoma and given a skin cream for treatment.

By June, however, Aiello was apparently moved to a different location. According to his lawsuit, jail staff took away his cream durning the transfer, and the lesion came back. A nurse who examined the lesion noted it's return and the need for more cream. But Aiello alleges he never received treatment.

Not that it would have helped. After repeated requests for medical attention, Aiello was finally taken to a dermatologist for a biopsy -- in January 2013, almost a year after first going to jail. That biopsy showed the jailhouse doctor had misdiagnosed the lesion as melanoma. It was actually basal cell carcinoma.

"This one was a more aggressive form of cancer," Bruce Prober, Aiello's attorney, tells New Times. "The cancer grew three times what it would have would it had been treated immediately." It also turns out that the cream he was originally handed for the "melanoma" wasn't even an effective treatment for that type of cancer, the lawsuit claims.

The lesion was eventually surgically removed in April 2013. A month later, Aiello developed a painful cyst on his lower back. Again, his repeated calls for medical attention allegedly went unheard. So much so that in October 2013, his attorney petitioned a judge on his behalf. "The circuit court judge ordered BSO medical to examine him and provide treatment," Prober tells New Times. "The order wasn't followed. He was ignored."

The lawsuit says Aiello's cyst wasn't removed until after he was released in January 2014. The complaint claims that not only did Armor misdiagnosis Aiello, but that his delayed treatment constitutes a civil rights violation.

"Armor is invested with the responsibility to provide the same standard of care as if the patient went to the hospital," Prober says. "This is way below the standard."

This isn't the first time Armor has been hit with charges stemming from patient care. The Miami-based company, which provides health services to jail systems around the state, has been named in numerous lawsuits. This includes a $1 million settlement involving a Tampa man who died in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's custody. Allen Daniel Hicks Sr. was left alone for 36 hours while suffering a deadly stroke. Armor was also targeted by the family of a mentally ill Broward man who died in BSO custody in 2012.

This track-record, however, didn't keep BSO from renewing the well-connected Armor's contract in February 2014.

BSO declined to comment on the pending litigation. A representative for Armor sent along the following statement:

Armor Correctional Health Service's policy is to strictly adhere to medical protocols for individual situations, diagnoses and incidents. Due to Federal HIPAA regulations and the filed litigation, we cannot comment specifically on the patient's case but our medical records certainly do not confirm what is alleged.

Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.

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