Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Weis Loses His Battle of the Bulge

In the end, it wasn't even close. Crewcut Charlie Weis' medical malpractice case against two Massachusetts General doctors went to a Suffolk Superior Court jury on Tuesday. About two hours later, the jury returned and announced it had rejected Weis' claims, clearing Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin.

Weis left the courtroom with a cell phone to his ear. Michael Mone, Weis' attorney, threw a hand up in front of a Boston Herald reporter's face when Weis was asked to comment about the loss.

William Dailey, attorney for Ferguson and Hodin, said the doctors "wished Weis the very best."

The jurors, who barely had enough time to order coffee and donuts before getting down to business, declined to comment.

In football terms, this was a rout.

Mone said later that Weis was "very disappointed" and that there would be no appeal. "There are no issues that came up at the trial that would appear to be the basis for an appeal."

Weis was fighting an uphill battle from the start. In 2005, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that fewer than one in 15 of the more than 750,000 patients who suffer injuries in hospitals each year ever file lawsuits, and only about a quarter of patients who sue ever receive money.
Helping us with coverage of both trials involving Weis have been Houston attorney Tom Kirkendall and University of Iowa doctor Gary Gaffney. Tom, who also runs the site Houston's Clear Thinkers, will provide a legal perspective on Thursday. First we welcome Gary, who also runs the site Steroid Nation, to give us a look from a medical perspective.

"We discussed the four points of a medical negligence case in our first post last week. Apparently this jury did not feel that the Weis team completely proved the four criteria in their argument (duty to patient, failure to carry out duty, injury proximal to the negligent act, permanent disability).

"I felt that the Weis team scored by pointing out that the bowel ruptured secondary to bleeding. That rupture led to Weis' coma. A perforated bowel and coma are serious complications, not usually expected even with gastric bypass surgery.

"The quandary of infusing a blood thinner to prevent pulmonary embolism, which likely prevented blood clotting, was one of those 'between a rock and a hard place' decisions. If the surgeons justified their actions in medical notes — making decisions based on data as it was ascertained — then no malpractice existed there. However, I would not have been surprised if the jury found in favor of Weis, giving him a few hundred thousand dollars for excessive loss of time.

"Even though the surgeons contend that Weis was not the most compliant patient, I didn't see that as much of a factor. A surgeon can refuse to complete the surgery if he feels the patient presents too much risk, or may be noncompliant.

"I recently served on a jury trial. Although we applied the 'facts' of the case to elements of the law, I can see where subjective impressions may play a role in a jury's verdict. Did Weis not look like a victim, but rather a successful and rich college football coach? Did the doctors appear to be honest and empathetic? We may never know.

"People may talk about the added expense of such malpractice litigation. While it is true that this trial adds to the financial burden of health care, and that the trial likely ate up several weeks of time where the physicians could have been performing surgery on other patients, it is important to allow patients who feel wronged to have their due process in an impartial way. It doesn't hurt to hold professionals accountable for their actions, even if inconvenient to everyone's schedule."

Previous coverage:
Preview: A legal perspective
Day 1: Battle lines drawn
Day 2: Weis' hired hand returns
Day 3
: Weis takes the stand
Day 4: Team Weis scores a victory
Day 5: Weis' story is questioned
Day 6:
Hodin defends decisions
The mistrial
: A look back at our coverage of the first trial.


farris said...

Pretty much fits the trend of how his coaching career has been sliding toward since going to Notre Dame...

Anonymous said...

As I had previously posted regarding this trial and the first one, Weis would get nothing since there was no violation of the standard of care. Bad outcomes can happen, but that is not med malpractice. It is unfortunate that Weis went through what he went through but that doesn't mean the doctors are responsible and should pay him money. Heck, if we applied the bad outcome theory to other things, then a lot of Irish fans would be suing Weis over the last two bowl games.

The Big Picture said...

this is like the blogging equivalent to coverage of the OJ trial.