June 5th, 2009
09:44 AM ET

Update: Man who couldn’t get insurance loses cancer battle

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical Producer

In the spring of 2008, CNN reported the story of Mark Windsor, a cancer patient who was dying for lack of insurance. Windsor passed away Monday after a 26-year battle with chondrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. He was 53 years old.

"After 16 major surgeries, radiation treatments and chemo treatments, the medical profession did not have the skill, or in too many cases, the desire to work with him further," said Windsor's brother, Allen Windsor, in a statement. "Mark believed, as he stated twice on CNN, money was the biggest factor in his untimely passing. Had he received the treatments he needed timely over the many years, his type of cancer could have been controlled for a longer time span."

In the months leading up to Windsor's death, he said in e-mails that he would have liked to live longer.

"I couldn't get benefits I needed at any price until it was too late," Windsor said. "Life could have been so beautiful."

Capturing the beauty of life was Windsor's initial hope. When Windsor was just 27, doctors removed a large, cancerous tumor from his neck. Windsor thought he was cured. A few years later, he had a wrenching choice to make: pursue his dream to become a photographer and leave a good job with company-paid health insurance, or stay and stay insured.

Windsor followed his passions. He never anticipated that the cancer would return. When it did, Windsor was uninsurable.

"I wish I would have seen all this coming. I just never figured I would be turned away from health care with tumors on my spinal cord, " Windsor said. "I think I served my country well during this short life."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Helen Fairchild

    What kind of doctor tells a person, "sorry, can't give the life saving treatment you need because you don't have the money, or insurance to cover it..." How horrible....those doctor's need to lose their license....same goes for these so called health insurance company's..once again, Obama needs to stop dragging his feet, and fix this.....EVERY man, woman, and especially child should be able to see a doctor at any time for what ever reason, and have what ever necessary tests and treatment they need, without worrying about "i am going to die because i can't afford medical care..."it's a sad thing, when the greatest country in the world lets people die due to lack of insurance...

    June 5, 2009 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ben

      How can a doctor agree to do it for no money when the person he is trying to save can sue him for any unwanted effect?

      November 9, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse |
  2. Patrick

    Its a pity he died in such a manner and that goes to show people the importance of being insured.may his soul rest in peace!

    June 6, 2009 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. vlo

    The insurance companies in this country are nothing short of political scams that create and change their rules and regulations at will. They are driven by drug company "big wigs" and hospital demands. Everyone complains about it but untill we join masses and petition the gov't for change and intervention, as bad as it is...its as good as it gets!

    June 6, 2009 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lauren in Wheeling, WV

    My heart breaks for Mark Windsor's family but most for him. Like Mark, I never thought cancer was untreatable, I mean, it never occurred to me that doctors were legally allowed to make people die all for the lack of money.

    I just lost my insurance when my employer of 5 1/2 years took me off my desk job and made me janitorial, then made me part time 2 months after that. I had been on Family Medical Leave in February and think they didn't want "damaged goods". meanwhile I am 45 with depression I cannot afford treatment for ($250/visit) or medicine for ($180 a month). Maybe I'll end up like a friend of mine who had terminal cancer and get benefits given to me 3 months after my death. And don't tell me the government wants to keep people like me, my friend, or Mark alive. They want us dead. it's genocide of the poor.

    June 6, 2009 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Nursejana

    Mr Windsor lived a very long time after his diagnosis...many cancer victims, insured or not, would give so much for a chance to live for so long. I am a 6-year survivor. Until and unless our healthcare system (ever) covers every person, please, people, stay with your job and insurance at least until you make it to your five-year cancer-free goal.

    June 8, 2009 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    Every year, 26,000 Americans die of lack of health insurance. Not only that this is a violation of Americans' civil and human rights, it is the definition of criminally negligent conduct. Congress has openly defied their Constitutional obligations under Article I, Section Eight, Clause One of the Constitution by not mandating national health insurance.

    Any Member of Congress who does not want national health care should be charged with reckless endangerment of Americans' lives and negligent homicide. Congress stop playing around, human lives are literally at stake.

    I have a question: Why do they think they can take our tax dollars to pay for their health care benefits and not take those same tax dollars to pay for ours? It is pass high time for those ingrates in DC to reciprocate.

    June 10, 2009 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. CA Dover, NH

    Reading reports like this depress me even more. 20 years next month I will have been fighting Type I Diabetes and it keeps getting worse and worse. I find it ironic that one of the biggest complications I've suffered from, weight gain, had been successfully managed, and reversed!, by one medication that two of my doctors have recommended. But due to "insurance reviews" it was determined that my insurance company would no longer cover the medication, citing in their statement that there was no need for this med at this time. Interesting statement, for someone 125 pounds overweight! My weight is now creeping back up again, with no other changes to diet or exercise schedule. I'm getting frightened that other meds will be slowly eliminated, a trend which will be deadly for Americans other than myself.

    June 12, 2009 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sandra

    My husband and I are 60 years in age. We opened a business so we could get some kind of group rate on our health insurance. Our group rate for a two man business $10,000 per year with a $10,000 ded. It was this month by 12%. We live in Ga., so there is no shared pool in this state. We are former insurance agents and financial advisors. We know how to shop for the best policy. Health insurance is getting so expensive. We are considering moving to Canada for health benefits. Our age group is getting hurt. We are willing to pay for any coverage. Please provide a ray of hope before we go broke.

    June 13, 2009 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lanfear

      Canada is amazing. You would not regret it!

      November 6, 2010 at 03:36 | Report abuse |
  9. Nancy

    every year 70,000 young adults (ages 18-39) are diagnosed with cancer...many of these people are just getting out of college, getting dropped from their parents' insurance, just getting into the work force and thus are uninsured. then they find themselves facing cancer WITHOUT insurance...it is any person's nightmare!

    as for blaming doctors, that is not really right. when doctors treat patients for cancer, they treat them in hospitals/big clinics. the doctor is not the one running these places and don't have the authority to approve a patient to get free treatment. what is the doctor to do even if he/she had compassion for the patients and wanted to save their lives? pay for the patients treatment out of their own pocket? well, that is not really realistic now is it? doctors are always blamed for thing that most of the time are out of their control. hospitals are sadly just like any other big company/corporation...they want profits, and they don't like giving anything for free, even if the cost is humna life...it is a sad truth but doctors are NOT to blame here.

    June 14, 2009 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tina pintovidal

    I am saddened when a loved one is lost by death. It is my hope that every one could have health insurance. The news has informed me that countries that have National Health Insurance are not meeting the health needs of their people. They are being limited with their scannng procedures and testing, waiting sometimes years to get the necessary treatment, not enough medical providers to go around.

    Whether we have the proper health insurance or not, we are all going to die. Just make sure you know where you will be spending eternity. Only Jesus can give you eternal life. Repent of your sins, acknowledge that he died for your sins and is risen. There will be judgment at the end. For God is Holy and does not tolerate sin. Either you will spend eternity with God or be forever burning in hell. The word says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

    Today is the day of salvation.

    June 16, 2009 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mike M.

    Occasionally I hear terms like 'Socialized Medicine' being tossed about by people in the US Government as though it's dirty and ugly. Interesting little sound byte there. How many of those same individuals are carping about 'Socialized Education'?

    Well, this is the US, they would say, we don't have Socialized Education! Ummm. Guess they never heard of the public school system that most Americans (myself included) attended as kids. Yes, folks, most American education is 'socialized'. And it worked fairly well for a lot of us. Certainly I've never thought of my education as substandard.

    Modern medicine is a high tech, VERY high infrastructure field. Those pieces of equipment, buildings, personnel etc. are not readily or well funded by private people who aren't exceedingly wealthy. They cannot be. Much the same as our schools, our roads etc. Perhaps it's time we lost the dirty word 'socialized'. We have functional and accepted 'socialized' things all around us in the US that we don't feel are 'dirty'.

    If we are all entitled to an education, funded by our tax dollars, why are we not entitled to the more critical care of our bodies? At the end of the day, which is more important, being able to read and write, or being able to breathe?

    Without the latter, we are all incapable of the former.

    June 23, 2009 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Patricia

    My parents are in their late 50's. In 2001 my dad went to the doctor and was told that he needed emergency open heart surgery. He was "covered" under my mom's group health insurance from her job. He had the surgery but a few months later my mother's insurance denied the claim saying that she didn't report that he was diagnosed with diabetes(he was never diagnosed with diabetes until after heart surgery). They threatened to sue her for fraud and made hints that she might loose her job. $60,000 was the price tag and my mom was the only one working at this point. She was making $10 an hour. On top of that during the surgery they took to artery from my dad's left arm and caused some nerve damage ( my dad is left handed). My dad was a heavy equipment operator, he could no longer use his hand to operate machines on top of that he was on 12 different medications a day which caused him to be weak and incoherent. He was eventually fired. The insurance company never paid out on that claim and now my parents are stuck with this debt. My mom paid her premiums every month...they took it from her paycheck. Yet they saw no problem with basically taking her money, but they didn't honor what they were suppose to do. This is ridiculous. Now my mom has been laid off....she has no insurance. Insurance companies are a bunch of leaches and we need to get sick and tired of getting ripped off!!!!

    June 23, 2009 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ray Glover

    I remember a survey which was conducted some years back, which asked Americans how much they would be willing to pay for health coverage, and as I recall, the common answer was something around 60 bucks per year. It apparently isn't a high enough priority for Americans to pay what health care is worth, or what it actually costs, so typically, we look to someone else to pay. Twisted souls that we are, we don't want to pay out of pocket, we don't want socialized medicine, we don't save for a rainy day, we eat too much and exercise too little, and we demand perfect medical care with unlimited benefits. The government behaves as it always has, driven to inaction by the money game which funds elections, big business ( insurance companies) does what it is supposed to do, that is, make as much money as possible, and the doctors are killed by the paperwork. Mr President, this here can of worms is right up there with the middle east, global warming, the financial crisis, and bad hair-do dictators with nuclear weapons. Good luck!

    June 23, 2009 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Elizabeth

    While this story is very sad, do you really think that this problem will be solved with Nationalized health care?

    Do you realize how many people flock to the United States FROM Canada to receive timely health care? Unless a person's medical condition is deemed an emergency by the state, you have to sit, and wait, and suffer – until you can be treated.

    Do you also realize how many elderly people are denied treatment for serious medical conditions in countries with socialized medicine, because the 'cost to beneift' ratio isn't on the side of Big Government?

    Do you REALLY want someone deciding FOR YOU – when and IF you can even receive the treatment you require?

    Not only that, but take into consideration how much money is spent on medical treatment for illegal aliens – people who DON'T pay taxes – year after year. All of those facts and figures about "50 million uninsured Americans!" – most of the people cited in that figure are not Americans. They aren't even here legally, nor are they paying their fair share.

    Oh, and by the way – OVER 30% of claims made to Medicare – a benefits program run by the government – were found to be fraudulent. And you really think that Nationalized Health Insurance is the answer?

    Must there be a better way? Sure – but Uncle Sam isn't the answer.

    June 23, 2009 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George


      Do you realize how many foreign workers are treated in hospitals and emergency rooms in UK, SPAIN, GERMANY, FRANCE, NEDERLANDS, etc....and nobody complains? This is how you were brainwashed....

      Do you ever realize that the US health care system will go bankrupt if will ever begin to work outside US and charge 300$ per doctor visit? BTW an appendix removal surgery with no complications costs 1500Euro in France and 17000$ in US. Can you explain why and why US system is better? Have you ever been in a hospital in W. Europe for a day only to compare/contrast with US? Have you ever been in a hospital in Japan/Singapore?

      Do you know that the same brand medication costs 40$/20 pills in Europe whereas costs 400$/20 pills in US?

      Do you know that US is the only country where retired people worry the health care ?

      When you have correctly answered all the above questions please start posting about health care.


      November 12, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
  15. Rebecca

    We can't blame the doctors, although any doctor who refuses to treat sick people because they do not have insurance is less than human. What is to blame is our entire health care system in its present form. It is unconscionable that people die due to being unable to access the care they need because they don't have insurance, and yet insurance companies and many doctors get richer and richer. Anyone who says we don't need the government to step in and level the health care playing field has his or her head in the sand.

    June 23, 2009 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Elizabeth Munroz

    Just to keep the record straight, Mark had many recurrences over those 26 years. It was not an easy life. Chondrosarcoma comes back if it is not treated in a timely manner. That means major surgery over and over again. Mark's cancer was in the cervical spine. Please read the original interview on Mark for further understanding.

    September 5, 2009 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. lanfear

    That would NEVER happen in Canada.

    November 6, 2010 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. charles s

    Thank god I am an American otherwise we be just like those crazy Europeans, Canadians, Australians, Japaneses, ect who insure everyone who happens to live in their country. Not only do Americans get to pay more than anyone on this earth for medical insurance which clearly proves that we are superior, but we even have to pay the largest deductibles in the world. I eagerly await the Republicans to march into Washington and get rid of the scourge Social Security and Medicare. Survivor of the richest is our goal.

    November 6, 2010 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Daniel

    This happens all the time under our medical system. We have the best medicine in the world, for those who can pay. Sadly, politicians like Rick Perry think that medical care is a private matter, not for the government. He once returned nearly a billion back to the federal government and cut 200,000 kids from Texas CHIP in 2007. Devante Johnson died of cancer because he was moved to an experimental treatment program to get any kind of care after losing CHIP.

    Now, Perry, in his book "Fed Up" calls social security a ponzi scheme and considers medical care a matter for charity, but not government. As an evangelical Christian, I call upon all Americans to stand up for Biblical social justicie and remind the Tea Party crowd that progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Bob Follete once shaped America's regulatory system and Richard Nixon once pushed for a health care bill similar to Obama's. John Calvin considered the role of the magistrate to be a high calling. What has happened to American Christianity that conservatives repudiate their heritage and instead push for libertarian solutions that allow the least of our brethren to die for what is treatable when one has money?

    November 7, 2010 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. thugnificent

    what you're forgetting is that this is a business. do you work and hand out all (several thousand dollars) of your money to charity? do food producing companies hand out free food to the starving people of Africa? no because it costs money. being a doctor is no different from any other job. you work for the interests of the industry and if the industry's not profitable, it ceases to exist.

    November 8, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thugnificent

      i wish that there was enough money for everyone to be well off but that doesn't exist.

      November 8, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
  21. Scott

    So sad that a persons life depends on the amount they can pay for insurance or the lack of money. This shows that doctors and hospitals are out for money and not for helping the sick or dying.

    November 9, 2010 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com

    Update man who couldnt get insurance loses cancer battle.. Great idea 🙂

    April 20, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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