Earlier this month, I wrote about a lawsuit against the government brought by the family members of Francisco Castaneda, who was refused a biopsy for a lesion on his penis while in immigration custody, and then died after having his penis amputated. The government initially moved to dismiss the suit on grounds of immunity. Judge Dean Pregerson of federal district court in California rejected that argument after some neat statutory detective work, which makes it look as if a lot of other courts have been wrong to grant the government immunity under the Public Service Health Act, which addresses medical negligence by government doctors and nurses.
Now the government has in fact admitted negligence . That could mean up to $250,000 in damages for Castaneda’s family. More importantly, it shows why Congress was right not to give blanket immunity to government health care providers, as Judge Pregerson found.The doctor who treated Castaneda (or rather, apparently failed to treat him) testified that she doesn’t feel responsible for Castaneda’s death. But now the courts can find otherwise.