Former House speaker Sal DiMasi has Stage 4 cancer; attorney says he was denied medical care by federal prison officials

Former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi’s tongue cancer has metastasized and his attorney said in court papers today that DiMasi was denied medical care for months while federal authorities shuttled him around the country as they prepared for him to appear before a grand jury investigating patronage in the state court system.

In papers filed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals today, DiMasi’s attorney Thomas R. Kiley said that DiMasi was told this January that lumps on the back of his neck were potentially cancerous, and needed further medical evaluation to determine if cancer had spread.

“The preliminary diagnosis was that the lumps were potentially cancerous and the question of performing further tests to determine whether the lumps were malignant and had spread was discussed with Mr. DiMasi and planned while he was in Kentucky,’’ he wrote.

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But DiMasi did not receive medical care again until April 24 when a doctor at the University of Kentucky Hospital, which is located near the federal prison in Kentucky where DiMasi is serving his year sentence for corruption in office, examined him.

The doctor “found a lesion on Mr. DiMasi’s tongue, suspected that the involvement of the lymph nodes may be a sign of a cancer spreading and worried that the biopsy had been delayed too long,’’ Kiley wrote.

Further testing in May revealed that DiMasi has squamous cell cancer and that it has reached Stage 4, meaning the cancer has metastasized, or spread, the papers said.

“When Mr. DiMasi was again seen by the doctors in Kentucky, he was told that the cancer had apparently spread,’’ Kiley wrote.

Kiley wrote that on June 6, DiMasi was transferred from a federal prison in Kentucky to the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.

“Mr. DiMasi is preparing to begin radiation on his tongue – which will be quite painful and affect his ability to speak, ‘’ Kiley wrote. “He will be unable to eat and will require a feeding tube placed in his stomach. After the radiation is completed, Mr. DiMasi will undergo seven (7) weeks of Chemotherapy.’’

Kiley then asked for more time to prepare DiMasi’s appeal of his 2011 convictions for pocketing cash from Cognos, a software company that was seeking multimillion-dollar contracts from the state. He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison, the toughest federal sentence ever given a Massachusetts elected official.

According to Kiley, since he was first alerted to the presence of the lumps on his neck, DiMasi repeatedly asked the federal Bureau of Prisons for provide follow-up medical care. Instead, from Feb. 2 until March 25, DiMasi was shuttled from Kentucky to Rhode Island for his grand jury appearance in Massachusetts – and then shuttled back.

“At each detention facility Mr. DiMasi passed through, he requested medical treatment and asked that the tests that were supposed to have been done in Kentucky be performed,’’ Kiley wrote. “He received no such treatment or testing.”