The Punishment of Sal DiMasi Has Turned into a Horror Story. When Is Enough Enough?

Friday, July 6, 2012

On an unspecified day in December, 2011, Salvatore F. DiMasi, the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, told the staff at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) prison in Lexington, Kentucky that he was concerned about some lumps on his neck and wanted to see a doctor. 

Sometime later, in January, 2012, someone on the prison staff took a close look at those lumps and concluded DiMasi would need blood tests and an examination by a specialist at the University of Kentucky Hospital.

This information comes from a motion filed June 19 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Boston, a filing pertaining to an attempt by Tom Kiley, DiMasi’s attorney, to gain more time for preparing an appeal of DiMasi’s conviction in the Cognos software sale scandal.  (In September, 2011, DiMasi was given an eight year sentence and incarcerated at the Kentucky facility.)

Before DiMasi could be seen at the University of Kentucky Hospital this winter, he was sent north on a long, circuitous trip by bus with other convicts, his ultimate destination the federal prison in Central Falls, Rhode Island.  This journey consumed many days and involved stops at various federal lock-ups along the way.   The purpose was to enable DiMasi’s appearance before a grand jury in Boston investigating alleged hiring improprieties in the Massachusetts Probation Department.

When the grand jury was done with DiMasi, he was put on another convict bus and shipped back to Kentucky by the same water-torture route he left it.  At every prison stop along the way, both coming to Rhode Island and returning to Kentucky, DiMasi made his medical condition known to authorities and asked to see a doctor.

“Mr. DiMasi arrived back at FMC Lexington on March 25 and immediately reported to sick call the next day,” the Kiley motion states.  “He again began trying to find out what was happening with his throat and the lumps on his neck and what, if any, treatment he would receive.

“On April 24, 2012, approximately a month after he arrived back in Kentucky, Mr. DiMasi was finally sent to the University of Kentucky Hospital to see a cancer specialist, Dr. Gal, who examined him and immediately sent him to have a thin-needle biopsy – the test the doctor in Rhode Island had recommended two months earlier…”

The Kiley motion continues:

“Dr. Gal had found a lesion on Mr. DiMasi’s tongue, suspected that the involvement of the lymph nodes may be sign of a cancer spreading and worried that the biopsy had been delayed too long.  The thin-needle biopsy was positive for squamous cell carcinoma.”

Thirteen days later, DiMasi returned to the University of Kentucky Hospital for exploratory surgery, “with a triple scope exam and an incisional biopsy of the lesion, which came back for squamous cell carcinoma.”  And fifteen days after that, he was informed he had Stage IV tongue cancer, meaning the disease had spread from his mouth to his neck and now posed a serious threat to his life.

“On or about June 6, 2012, Mr. DiMasi was transferred from FMC Lexington, Kentucky to FMC Butner in North Carolina,” the Kiley motion states.  “Mr. DiMasi is preparing to begin radiation on his tongue – which will be quite painful and affect his ability to speak.  He will be unable to eat and will require a feeding tube placed in his stomach.  After radiation is completed, Mr. DiMasi will undergo seven weeks of chemotherapy.”

The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of curing it.  That’s an axiom of modern medicine.

A patient suffering from Stage I tongue cancer, for example, has a 71% chance of being alive five years after treatment has been completed, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).  If, however, that same patient was diagnosed when the cancer was at Stage IV, like DiMasi’s, his chance of surviving for five years would drop to 37%, the ACS says.

Let’s imagine that Sal DiMasi, a graduate of Boston College and Suffolk University Law School, had retired from politics at the end of 2008 to take up the full-time practice of law and had never gotten into trouble because of Cognos. 

In that case, can anyone doubt that the former Speaker, having served in the House for 30 years and held one of the highest elected offices in the state for four years, would have been able to obtain an appointment with the best oral cancer specialist at Dana Farber or Mass. General Hospital within 48 hours of discovering those lumps on his neck last December? 

And can anyone doubt that DiMasi’s cancer would have been accurately diagnosed in those first 48 hours and that he would have entered treatment promptly, thus limiting the spread of the disease and the scope of required treatment?

DiMasi, who will turn 67 on August 11, has lost all his savings and assets, his reputation, his pension, his license to practice law and ability to earn a living, and now his health.  He is going through a very painful and debilitating course of medical treatments.  At the end of that, he will have less than a 50/50 chance of living another five years.  The man has suffered a great deal, and will suffer a great deal more before it is over for him.

It’s time once again for the U.S. Department of Justice to earn its name.  It’s time to parole Sal DiMasi. 

No comments:

Post a Comment