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Friday, February 16th 2007

Charlie Weis Is Helping Raise Physician Malpractice Premiums

There’s No Easy Way To Say This…You Could Use To Lose Some Weight

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is overweight. There is even a website with that fact reflected in its title Charlie Weis Ate My Baby (*edit*: my apologies for originally listing the site as an anti-Notre Dame fan site)

He Tried To…Which Has Led To This Malpractice Suit…

I dislike the Big CW from what I know of him as a coach, and even if I didn’t as a USC alumn I hate Notre Dame. He isn’t helping my opinion of him with this malpractice suit in Massachusetts stemming from his gastric bypass surgery.

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital allowed former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to bleed internally for 30 hours after a gastric bypass operation, bringing Weis to the brink of death and leaving him with permanent nerve damage in his right foot, Weis’s lawyer said yesterday.

But the surgeons’ lawyer, William J. Dailey Jr., said in his opening statement that Weis’s internal bleeding, while unfortunate, is not unusual for this type of surgery, in which 5 percent to 10 percent of patients have serious complications and 1 out of 100 dies. Ferguson had directly briefed Weis about the dangers, including internal bleeding, and Weis understood, the lawyer said.

Dailey said Ferguson, Hodin, and numerous other Mass. General doctors were aware that Weis was bleeding internally to some degree, but they believed that the bleeding would stop without surgery. He said they were worried that Weis might have developed a blood clot in his lung, called a pulmonary embolism, which would have made a second surgery extremely dangerous.

Obviously not only do we not have enough facts, I don’t have the skills to interpret them. That caveat applies to any malpractice cases explored on this site though and with that said this doesn’t seem like the most gregarious case I’ve ever seen.

The major contention seems to be over what was causing Weis respiratory distress. It pits the testimony of a SICU nurse versus that of the intensivists and hospitals and surgeon who was on call that night.

Hodin, a general surgeon covering Ferguson’s patients for the weekend, as well as doctors in the intensive care unit, became concerned that Weis’s respiratory distress could be caused by a dangerous clot in his lungs.

But Jennifer Wilson, the intensive care nurse who looked after Weis during the day on Saturday and Sunday, testified yesterday that she suspected extensive internal bleeding on Saturday morning, in part because a significant amount of blood was coming out of a tube that was draining his stomach. He also required several blood transfusions that day, she said, adding that she conveyed her concern about internal bleeding to doctors in the intensive care unit.

The claim is for nerve damage (?),

Because of the prolonged hospitalization and what Mone argued was poor care, Weis suffered nerve damage to his lower legs and feet that made it difficult to walk or stand. He said Weis suffers great pain when he stands on the sidelines during a football game.

Weis’ testimony included the following,

William J. Dailey Jr., a lawyer for the doctors, suggested under cross examination of Weis that the surgery was successful because it helped Weis achieve his stated goals: He lost nearly 90 pounds and landed his dream job at Notre Dame.

Dailey also asked Weis about his prior history of health problems, including sleep apnea and hemochromatosis, an iron overload in the body, and asked if he fully realized all the risks of bypass surgery. Five to 10 percent of patients suffer major complications, Dailey said, and about 1 in 200 die.

Weis said he did know about the potential complications. “Yes sir, (Dr. Ferguson) definitely told me there were other risks,” he said.

Dailey also pointed out the doctors waived the normal counseling period before the operation — at Weis’ request — so he could be healthy in time for the following football season.

He’s certainly portrayed as being honest on the stand and he probably doesn’t need the money, so the motivation might be one of actual justice. Still, from what little we know there seems to have been a lot of doctors who thought they were looking at a PE.

I know nothing about Gastric Bypass surgery but a CBS News report from 2005 claims,

A recent study by researchers at the University of Washington found that 1 in 50 people die within one month of having gastric bypass surgery, and that figure jumps nearly fivefold if the surgeon is inexperienced.

Emphasis is my own. Yikes!

In anycase, these physicians even being from MGH are going to have a hard time with the star power on Weis’ side. There’s a good chance Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady may testify on Weis’ behalf next week.

H/T Kevin, MD