A Minnesota inmate complained about blood in his urine for nearly two years but was allegedly misdiagnosed by prison doctors, allowing his cancer to grow to the point where it was incurable and eventually killed him, a lawsuit alleged.
Elbert Larkins, 54, died of prostate cancer on May 7, 2018, because staff at the Steele County jail and at state prisons in Rush City and Faribault, Minn., didn’t take his concerns seriously, said a wrongful-death and medical malpractice suit filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court.
“During the two years prior to his diagnosis, the doctors that examined Mr. Larkins missed numerous opportunities for urological referral that would have revealed Mr. Larkins’s prostate cancer much sooner,” the suit said. “In short, an earlier diagnosis would have likely prevented Mr. Larkins’s premature death from prostate cancer.”
The suit names the following defendants: Drs. William Scheidt, Jeffrey Felt, Jerry Alan Nelson and Virginia Mandac; Steele County, its sheriff, Lon Thiele, and county nurse Leah Kent; and the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) and its commissioner.
Larkins was in DOC custody in two facilities in 2015, in the Steele County jail from December 2015 through October 2016 and returned to DOC custody in October 2016. The suit alleged that the facilities also failed to transfer Larkins’ updated medical records accurately between locations.
The DOC said Friday that it had not seen the suit and declined to comment.
Attorney Joe Flynn, who represents the three Steele County defendants, said the county denies wrongdoing.
“We met expected standards of care in regards to Mr. Larkins,” Flynn said.
According to the lawsuit, Larkins allegedly did not receive a health screening or physical exam when he was admitted to prison in Rush City in March 2015. That month Larkins told Mandac that there was blood in his urine and semen, but he was not referred to a urologist.
In DOC custody in Faribault in July 2015, Larkins told Nelson that he had seen an increasing amount of blood in his urine. The doctor allegedly gave Larkins antibiotics.
Larkins told a Steele County doctor and nurse in March 2016 that there was blood in his urine, the suit said. Scheidt allegedly gave him antibiotics.
Larkins complained to the same doctor and nurse 13 days later that he had “dark brown urine” but was not referred to a urologist, the suit alleged.
By the end of March 2016, Scheidt had allegedly spoken to a urologist about Larkins’ symptoms and was told by the urologist not to worry.
In August 2016, Larkins told Scheidt he had blood in his urine and a loss of appetite. He was given antibiotics.
“… [A]n evaluation [by a urologist] would have led to a prostate exam and a prostate blood test which would have resulted in an earlier diagnosis of Mr. Larkins’s prostate cancer which was likely curable at the time,” the suit said.
In Faribault in December 2016 and January 2017, Larkins complained to Felt that he had difficulty urinating. He received medication for an enlarged prostate.
In February 2017, Larkins could not urinate. The next month, the suit said, a urologist was consulted and Larkins received a diagnosis of incurable prostate cancer.
Attorney Oliver Nelson III, representing Larkins’ daughter, Breyana, said he would allow the suit to speak for itself.