Mississippi Prison Accused of Delaying Care as Woman Developed Terminal Cancer, According to Lawsuit

Credits: Southern Poverty Law Center

Susie Balfour, a former inmate at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, has filed a lawsuit against four companies contracted by the Mississippi Department of Corrections for alleged negligence and exposure to potentially cancer-causing chemicals during her imprisonment.

Balfour reported feeling painful lumps in her breasts in 2011, prompting a mammogram that indicated possible signs of breast cancer. Despite doctors’ recommendations for annual check-ups, Balfour claims she was repeatedly denied screenings over the following decade.

In December 2021, shortly before the completion of her three-decade sentence, Balfour was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Upon release, she sought treatment and discovered the cancer had progressed significantly.

Mississippi Prison (Credits: Washington Post)

Balfour’s lawsuit targets Merit Health Central and other contracted healthcare providers, accusing them of negligent care and exposure to harmful chemicals while performing cleaning duties without protective equipment.

Glyphosate, a chemical Balfour claims to have been exposed to, has been linked to cancer in some studies. However, the Environmental Protection Agency maintains that glyphosate poses no health risks when used according to current regulations. Despite this, Balfour alleges that the prison failed to provide adequate protective gear.

Balfour’s lawsuit also highlights discrepancies in her medical care, citing delayed screenings and mismanagement of her condition, which allowed the cancer to progress unchecked.

Doctors reportedly found microcalcifications in her breasts in 2011, a potential early sign of cancer, but follow-up screenings were not conducted as recommended.

Upon release, Balfour sought treatment at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.

Her attorney, Drew Tominello, emphasizes the urgency of regular screenings and closer medical attention, suggesting that Balfour’s condition could have been managed more effectively with proper care.

The lawsuit alleges that provisions in the contracts between the Mississippi Department of Corrections and healthcare providers incentivized cost-cutting measures, potentially compromising the quality of care for inmates.

Balfour expresses concern for other inmates with unaddressed healthcare needs, particularly those who may also have cancer. As she continues her cancer treatment, Balfour remains uncertain about her prognosis, emphasizing the urgency of addressing healthcare issues within the prison system to prevent similar instances of neglect in the future.

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