Monday, July 16, 2007
Second trial begins in Weis' malpractice suit against two surgeons
BOSTON -- Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis was back in
court Monday, pressing his medical malpractice case for a second
time against two surgeons he alleges botched his care after he had
gastric bypass surgery five years ago.
The first trial ended in a mistrial in February after a juror
collapsed and the Massachusetts General Hospital doctors being sued
rushed to his aid.
After that surprising end, some thought Weis, the former
offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, and the
doctors, both surgeons, would agree to a settlement to avoid a
But with just three weeks left until Notre Dame begins its
preseason practice, Weis was sitting at the front of the courtroom
Monday, in the same row as the two surgeons he has accused of
Charles Ferguson, director of Mass. General's surgical residency
program, and Richard Hodin, a surgeon and professor at Harvard
Medical School, insist they gave Weis excellent care following his
surgery in June 2002.
In opening statements to the jury, Weis's lawyer, Michael Mone,
said the doctors acted negligently by allowing Weis to bleed
internally for 30 hours after the surgery before performing a
second operation to correct the complication. Weis was in a coma
for two weeks and nearly died.
But William Dailey Jr., a lawyer for Ferguson and Hodin, said
internal bleeding was a well-known complication of gastric bypass
surgery. Dailey said Ferguson, Hodin and several other doctors who
cared for Weis believed the bleeding would stop on its own, as it
does in most cases following such surgery.
They also were very concerned that Weis could develop a
pulmonary embolism -- a potentially fatal condition -- and did not
want to perform another surgery with that possibility looming.
Both sides agreed the surgery itself went well. Ferguson
performed the operation on a Friday, then left Weis in Hodin's care
for the weekend, the attorneys said.
But early the next morning, Weis' condition deteriorated sharply
and he began to bleed internally, Mone said. He said the second
surgery wasn't performed until the following afternoon, a delay
that sent Weis into a coma and left him with lasting pain and
numbness in his feet.
"It was incumbent on the doctors to intervene," Mone said.
"Had they done what they should have done, Mr. Weis would not
have sustained the injuries he sustained," he said.
But Dailey said the type of bleeding Weis experienced is a
complication that sometimes happens despite the best efforts of
doctors. He said Ferguson suggested that Weis consider putting off
the surgery because if complications occurred, he could miss an
entire football season. But Weis said he didn't want to wait and
declined to participate in a preoperative program designed to
prepare patients for the surgery and teach them how to eat after
the operation, Dailey said.
"Mr. Weis indicated he knew full well what the risks were,"
Dailey also told the jury that Weis, who weighed about 350
pounds before the surgery, lost about 100 pounds in the year after
the surgery, and managed to land one of the top coaching jobs in
the country at Notre Dame, his alma mater.
But Mone said Weis went through a long and painful
rehabilitation and still suffers pain in his feet, forcing him to
sometimes use a motorized cart.
The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.