An illegal immigrant from El Salvador who failed to get treatment for penile cancer has died of his disease in the US, his lawyers said.
The 36-year-old Francisco Castaneda had actually sued state and federal authorities for failing to diagnose and treat his penile cancer in Southern California jails and detention centers.
He died Saturday last at his Los Angeles-area home, a year after doctors amputated his penis to try to stop the spread of the cancer, the attorneys said. His lawyers said they would go ahead with the lawsuit, filed Oct. 31 last in the federal court in Los Angeles.
Castaneda had left his native land with his mother during the civil war and entered the United States illegally when he was 10. He was convicted in 2005 of possessing methamphetamine and spent eight months in jail, then was held in immigration detention centers in San Diego and San Pedro while awaiting proceedings on deportation and his claim for political asylum.
According to his lawsuit, a doctor first noticed a growth on Castaneda's penis in December 2005, while he was in state custody, and ordered further tests that were never conducted. Multiple lesions developed and Castaneda's pain increased while he was in prison, but doctors and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency officials turned down medical staff recommendations for a biopsy and surgery, the suit said.
A doctor finally ordered a biopsy in late January 2007 and said Castaneda probably had cancer, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement released him 11 days later rather than having him treated, the suit said. He underwent the biopsy and amputation at a Los Angeles County hospital.
In October, a congressional committee looking into medical care at immigration detention centers heard testimony from Castaneda and from two relatives of immigration detainees who had died in custody, reports San Francisco Chronicle.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who presided over the hearing, said afterward that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was an agency in denial.
Agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency spent $100 million in 2006 on health care for its 300,000 prisoners, screens all of them for health problems and refers them to specialists when necessary.
In a statement released Thursday by Castaneda's lawyers, his brother, Yanira Castaneda, said the death "could have been prevented if the federal government had given him proper medical care."