Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weis Questioned on Reason for Surgery

Day 2 of Crewcut Charlie Weis' trial saw the big guy take the witness stand. Weis testified that he elected to undergo gastric bypass surgery without discussing it with his wife, Maura, or his boss at the time, New England coach Bill Belichick. The only person who knew was Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.

Weis said he told Maura about the surgery two weeks beforehand. She begged him to back out, but Weis bullishly told her, "full speed ahead." The Boston Herald went as far to describe Weis as "unapologetic."

Weis also continued to claim that one of the reasons for deciding to undergo the surgery was his fear that he would be unable to reach his goal of becoming a head coach because of his obesity. More on this in a moment. ...

Defense attorney William Dailey suggested that the surgery was successful because it helped Weis lose weight and get his dream job at Notre Dame. Dailey asked Weis if he knew of potential complications from the surgery. "Yes sir, [Dr. Ferguson] definitely told me there were other risks," Weis said.

Dailey, who also touched on Weis' other medical conditions, including sleep apnea, then pointed out that doctors waived the normal counseling period before the operation — at Weis' request — so the coach could be healthy in time for the following season.

Maura Weis, right, also testified. She said of her husband: "He's not a complainer. I know there are times when he just toughens up and takes one for the team at home."

So how did the day go for Team Weis? Let's bring in Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the man behind Steroid Nation, to give us a medical perspective.

"Weis answered important questions affirmatively about his understanding of the surgery, as well as a direct question that he understood the complications.

"More interesting details were revealed by the cross-examination. Weis apparently has pre-existing medical problems, including sleep apnea and hemochromatosis, which is called 'bronze diabetes' because patients suffer from iron overload, depositing iron in the pancreas, liver, heart and skin.

"The other interesting revelation was that Weis declined the usual pre-operative counseling in order to hurry the surgery along.

"I see the Massachusetts General defense team painting a picture of Weis as a stubborn and somewhat noncompliant patient. He did not attend pre-operative counseling. He pulled the trachea tube out himself, postoperatively. He did not listen to doctors advice after the surgery, returning to work astonishingly fast.

"The burden is on the plaintiff to document the elements of tort negligence. In this case, however, a picture is emerging of a patient who did not follow doctor's advice at times; thus if the outcome of the surgery is not optimal, the patient [Weis] may be in part culpable by virtues of his noncompliance.

"Weis also does not look like a patient who suffered a dire outcome. He claims to be 100 pounds lighter and he is well-dressed. Not a typical patient who suffered from serious medical malpractice.

"However, Weis' appearance and his noncompliance may not matter if his attorney can demonstrate that substandard care immediately postoperatively led to the internal hemorrhaging."

Thanks again to Gary. .... As for Weis' claim that he feared his obesity would prevent him from ever becoming a head coach, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent us this transcript from Weis' introductory press conference as Notre Dame coach. It's clear that on Dec. 13, 2004, Weis discounted having the surgery to enhance his chances of becoming a head coach:

Question: "The surgery that you went through, I read that you talked about becoming a head coach, it was important to lose weight and appearance -- "

Weis: "I never said that. The newspaper writer is sitting there saying that's the reason why you do that.

"You want to know why you do it? Because for 10 years you're over 300 pounds and your father died at 56 of a second heart attack. You're afraid if you stay at the same level, you're going to drop dead. That's why you do it. It has nothing to with getting jobs. That's what everyone else says because they want to put words in your mouth. The bottom line is when you're unhealthy, you're unhealthy, do you something about it. That's what it was."

Previous: Recap of Day 1 and a Legal Perspective on Weis Trial. Our thanks to Hester Graphics.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the head coach comment had more to do with him actually living long enough to earn his way to a head coaching position than the appearance that goes along with it?

Also, the comment that he doesn't look like a typical medical malpractice patient because he is "100 lbs lighter" and "well-dressed" cracked me up. What does well-dressed have to do with it?

One last thing- he lost 100 lbs, my ass. I read on Yahoo that he weighed 336 lbs before the surgery...there is no freaking way that man weighs 236 lbs. For the sake of comparison:

Brady Quinn 6'4", 227 lbs

Charlie Weis 6'2" (I think), 236 lbs? No freaking way!

Anonymous said...

The weight figures are tossed out there without assurance of accuracy. I would suspect Weis was much more than 340, at the time of surgery. He looks about 280 now. Considering the criteria for surgery I bet Weis was closer to 400 than he lets on.

In a courtroom, appearance is everything. A victim of medical negligence is going to claim he had a horrible outcome from the particular procedure. It would be more potent if the plaintiff actually looked like he suffered. In the courtroom, Weis looked like a celebrity, and a well paid one at that. There are so many stories of people out there claiming disability, then showing up on videos playing soccer or dancing, that a jury might be sensitive to appearance.

A lawyer needs to look professional. A judge should look judicial. A victim should appear, well victimized. Although a jury has the task of examining the points of tort law and medical malpractice, the members just might be looking at a well dressed man in a double breasted suit saying 'he sure doesn't look like a guy who suffered horribily'. Especially when the 'victim' appeared to do as he pleased without following doctor's orders.

Anonymous said...

A patient extubating himself after a surgical procedure is not necessarily an indication of "refusing doctor's orders" as the defense seems to be claiming. He was most likely sedated and confused at the time.