Criminal Justice

Denied Treatment for His Cancer, This Kentucky Man Died in Prison After Vomiting Blood

In a lawsuit, Marc Crawford's widow says the state refused to give him his prescriptions and his chemotherapy.


Marc Crawford was booked into a Kentucky jail in May 2017. Just shy of a month later, he left state custody in a body bag. He had succumbed to a previously diagnosed case of lung cancer, one for which state officials and health care contracting companies reportedly failed to provide him basic treatment.

Specifically, according to a suit filed by Dawn Crawford, Marc's widow: Correct Care Solutions LLC, one of those contracting companies, refused to ensure Crawford received his scheduled chemotherapy treatments, and staff at the Madison County Detention Center (MCDC) declined to give Crawford his prescriptions, took off his pain-medication patch, and put him on psychoactive medications that did not properly treat his illness. MCDC staff allegedly neglected to administer treatment even as Crawford vomited blood, and senior staff reportedly rebuffed several requests from a lower-level employee to give him more intensive care.

Crawford was arrested for first-degree wanton endangerment and fleeing the scene of an accident. Six days later, he was transferred from the MCDC to the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR), a prison, allegedly so he could receive better medical treatment. Instead, the suit says, he was denied his medications and chemotherapy, as well as the breathing treatments prescribed to him by a nurse practitioner.

On June 24, he died. "Marc effectively drowned with more than three liters of fluid accumulating in his lungs," wrote the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in a ruling issued October 8. "Medical staff would have discovered this fluid if they had administered his prescribed breathing treatments." The state had yet to provide him with an oncologist. Two days went by before they notified the family of his death. A report by the Kentucky attorney general's office found later that year that the MCDC had violated state law in its response to Dawn Crawford's request for public information pertaining to her husband's tenure under state care.

At press time, the Kentucky Department of Corrections has not responded to Reason's request for comment.

The lawsuit names James Erwin, acting commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, as one of the defendants. Erwin, she alleges, "promulgated and maintained" the KSR policies and customs that violated Crawford's Eight Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

That part of the suit has been rejected. Erwin could not have infringed on Crawford's constitutional rights, the 6th Circuit Court has concluded, because he did not have enough involvement or knowledge of the situation to be held liable. He is thus protected by qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that gives certain government officials a shield against various civil suits.

"At most, Dawn's complaint alleges the following: Erwin accepted Marc's transfer to KSR. Through that process, Erwin was 'made aware' of Marc's medical conditions," wrote Circuit Judge John Nalbandian. "Erwin knew that Correct Care's deficient policies and customs posed risks to Marc. Erwin never tried to alleviate these risks. And the combination of these actions and inactions proximately caused Marc's injuries. That's it. Even charitably construed, this is all the activity that Dawn's amended complaint attributes to Erwin." As such, it cannot survive, said the 6th Circuit.

The ruling "is not especially egregious, and supervisory liability can be a tricky theory," says Clark Neily, senior vice president for legal studies at the Cato Institute. "That said, it strikes me as quite remarkable that a system that will entrust juries with the decision whether to take a human life in death penalty cases—often on the basis of complicated scientific evidence—is so unremittingly distrustful of juries when it comes to their ability to decide much lower-stakes cases like whether a particular government official committed misconduct and if so whether they should be financially liable to the person they harmed."

Correct Care has been the subject of quite of bit of scrutiny in recent years, with several stories resembling Crawford's. In 2018, for example, an inmate in Marion County, Indiana, sued the company after being denied a prescribed chemotherapy drug for more than a month. He had been given ibuprofen instead.

There are dozens of such lawsuits, dating years back. In 2019, a CNN report outlined a slew of preventable deaths for which Correct Care was allegedly responsible. "Doctors who studied a subset of those cases contended that 'proper care' could have prevented about half of the deaths they examined," notes Judge Nalbandian. But because that report was published two years after Crawford's death, he concludes, "Erwin cannot have learned anything relevant" from it.

The ruling does not address the officials and health care companies that had more direct involvement in Crawford's demise, so the widow still might receive some sort of just compensation. Whether the state will take a cue from the years of alleged abuse at Correct Care's hands remains to be seen.

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30 responses to “Denied Treatment for His Cancer, This Kentucky Man Died in Prison After Vomiting Blood

  1. I blame Joe Biden.

    1. Fuck Joe Biden.


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  2. Denied Treatment for His Cancer, This Kentucky Man Died in Prison After Vomiting Blood

    If he was unvaxxed, then this is reasonable.

    1. Agreed.
      I think we need to see his vaccine passport before declaring this inhumane or not.

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  3. What about the lady that was denied an organ transplant?

    1. According to the Party of Compassion she's an evil, selfish MAGgAt and deserves to die.

      1. Wait. What color was her skin? That important.

        1. The actual color doesn't matter, the one drop rule seems to have been brought back.

          There was a recent thing where a white woman was suing another white woman because she was racist, but actually looked more white than the one who was supposedly racist.

    2. That's an interesting way to frame it.

      Let's be more realistic.

      What about the lady that callously tried to spread a deadly disease to other unwitting, vaccinated patients who thought when they entered the hospital they'd be safe from idiots who are spewing a deadly virus?

      1. Except
        1: we know that the vaccines don't have a significant effect on transmission. They reduce the occurrence of serious side-effects, so your claim that it's protecting other patients is suspect.
        2: The woman was on immuno-suppressants and was instructed by her doctors to not receive any vaccinations as they would be dangerous, so she was following doctor's orders.

      2. who thought when they entered the hospital they’d be safe from idiots who are spewing a deadly virus?

        Even before COVID, 1/3 of people entering a hospital acquired an illness at the hospital. COVID is really the least of your worries when you enter a hospital. Hospitals are dangerous.

  4. So I, as a law abiding citizen, could die like this because I don't have health insurance , but it's wrong when criminals don't get free health care?

    1. But your death would be justified if you didn’t get the vaccine.

    2. Hospitals can't say no. Uncompensated care. Be honest.

      1. Emergency rooms are only required to evaluate you that you're not actively dying at that moment. They don't provide actual healthcare. You are the dishonest one.

        1. You don't understand how the racket works, do you?

          Hospitals can overcharge 10x for any treatment they give the uninsured. They can declare all that fake money to be an expense and use it to offset their earnings, resulting in massive tax savings.

          Hospitals love the uninsured; they are a financial windfall.

    3. It seems like the person in question had already been prescribed the medication to treat his disease. I don't see the part where he'd have been getting "free health care", at least not from the prison system.

  5. "In 2018, for example, an inmate in Marion County, Indiana, sued the company after being denied a prescribed chemotherapy drug for more than a month. He had been given ibuprofen instead."

    Well, the two are very similar.

  6. Huh. Some of the J6 paraders have also been denied medical treatment. Often over charges of a simple misdemeanor.

    1. Hey, if they wanted rights, they shouldn't have made the government angry at them.

  7. WOW, that is some terrible treatment for a luxury resort.

  8. You forgot to mention Correct Care Solutions is a private company.

  9. I support the redistribution of medical care from imprisoned murderers to imprisoned offenders of lesser offenses.

  10. Not a word from Reason about Chris Worrell or John Anderrson.

    Reason is doing its part to erase the followers of Emmanuel Goldstein from history!

  11. The treatments may have been prescribed but who would actually have paid for them? 99% sure the government would have. The OP’s point was that, if most law-abiding people without good-paying health insurance cannot afford the cost of cancer treatments, why do we owe law breakers these same treatments?

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