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Prisoner suing over fatal cancer

Diagnosis behind bars came too late, he says

DANIEL Roy spent months in Headingley Correctional Centre before he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for a string of bank robberies.

Now, the 26-year-old Roy is alleging the prison term has become tantamount to a death sentence.

He is suing the provincial government, the Winnipeg Clinic and physicians and staff at Headingley Correctional Centre for failing to diagnose a cancerous tumour earlier and leaving him with only six months to live.

In a statement of claim filed in Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench last week, Roy seeks general damages, special damages including medical costs, and loss of past and future income.

Roy claims that while in Headingley waiting to be sentenced, he pointed out a lump on his right thigh to a doctor there on May 29, 2010.

He claims the doctor looked at the lump, said there was nothing to be concerned about because it was only a fatty deposit and didn't order a biopsy.

Roy said he got the same diagnosis when he saw the same doctor again on July 8, on Oct. 14 when the lump had grown and was painful, and Nov. 25.

He claims that on Jan. 31, 2011, the doctor finally referred him to a doctor at the Winnipeg Clinic, who saw him on April 5, 2011, and scheduled an MRI appointment for May 16, but there was an alleged mix-up in the date and it had to be rescheduled.

After Roy was transferred to serve his sentence at Stony Mountain Institution in May 2011, he underwent an MRI on Sept. 2, 2011, which found the lump might be a sarcoma. It was later diagnosed as an aveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS). Various websites say ASPS is a rare cancer that usually attacks children and young adults.

The Sarcoma Foundation of America says the prognosis for ASPS patients is 87 per cent will still be alive five years after diagnosis as long as the tumour is localized, but only 20 per cent will live that long if the cancer has spread by the time it is diagnosed.

Roy alleges that if not for "the carelessness, recklessness, negligence and/or breach of contract of the defendants," the cancer "would have been diagnosed and treated sooner... and his cancer would have been treatable."

A government spokesman said the province will not comment on the matter because it is before the courts.

Court files say Roy was sentenced in May 2011 by provincial court Judge Marvin Garfinkel to 90 months in prison, minus the 30 months he had already served in pretrial custody, after pleading guilty to five bank robberies he committed in February and March 2010. Garfinkel ordered the sentence to be served after a previous two-year sentence for break and enter.

Roy appealed the 71/2-year sentence for the bank robberies, but in January 2012, the Manitoba Court of Appeal rejected the appeal.

Court documents say Roy was told last month the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, and early this month he was told "he has approximately six months to live and that the last remaining treatment option before enrolling the plaintiff in a palliative-care program would be intravenous chemotherapy."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

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