Family sues over death of death row inmate

RENO -- The family of a death row inmate who died at Ely State Prison has sued the state's prison system, claiming it failed to provide medical treatment for him.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, the family contends the maximum-security prison refused to dispense insulin for 60-year-old Patrick Cavanaugh's diabetes before he died in April 2006.

The Cavanaugh case was cited by the American Civil Liberties Union in a Reno federal court lawsuit filed in March accusing the state of denying adequate medical care to inmates at the Ely prison.

Dr. Simone Russo said in a medical report attached to the family's lawsuit that staff physician Dr. Steven MacArthur denied Cavanaugh his insulin.

"It seems obvious that this goes beyond malpractice to the level of criminal behavior," Russo said in his affidavit. "But I am not qualified to make that judgment."

Nicole Moon, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"At this point, we are still reviewing and evaluating it," she told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Cavanaugh, a former manager of the Coasters singing group, was convicted in 1984 of killing group member Nathaniel "Buster" Wilson in Las Vegas.

At the time of Cavanaugh's death, a prison spokesman said that the inmate had long-term health problems aggravated by smoking and that no foul play was suspected.

The lawsuit also alleges that no plans were made to surgically remove Cavanaugh's gangrenous limbs, even though the procedure could have saved his life.

"As a result, Ely State Prison medical staff literally left Mr. Cavanaugh to rot to death," the lawsuit says.