I would never have believed this if anyone other than Mary Supple had told me, but Mary Supple is from North Dakota and I have never known anyone from North Dakota to tell a lie. Besides, she taught across the hall from me for years and only complained about my loud music a handful of times, and she is the only person I know who has personally talked to Regis Philbin while serving as a lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Hers is a trustworthy resume, understand.
Last week a Gwinnett County jury awarded a widow $5 million in a wrongful death malpractice suit. Nothing that unusual there, of course. Juries have long been known to be very generous with insurance companies' money -- especially when a grieving widow is involved, and everyone knows that if a doctor is sued he doesn't actually pay the money out of his own pocket -- his malpractice insurance picks up the tab.
Of course, most people have no idea how much malpractice insurance costs on an annual basis or how it affects their own health costs or the availability of high risk specialists in particular areas, but hey -- most people know very little when you get right down to it.
Suffice it to say, a woman winning a malpractice case against a doctor is not particularly rare, but this lady won not because of what the doctor did, but rather because of what the doctor didn't do -- or at least because of the warning he didn't give. Keep reading. Y'all ain't gonna believe this.
Three years ago a 31-year-old husband and father of two was examined by a particular doctor in a large Gwinnett County cardiology practice. According to the attorneys for the plaintiff (wasn't Plaintiff the name of Lewis Grizzard's first three wives?) the doctor found a few heart-related problems with his patient, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a possibly blocked artery.
According to this same law group, the doctor believed the patient to be stable and instead of treating the case as an urgent and life-threatening measure, he ordered a nuclear stress test, which was scheduled to take place in eight days.
Unfortunately, on the seventh day -- one day before the stress test was to take place -- the patient -- who was a policeman, by the way -- thought it would be a good idea to check into a hotel room near Hartsfield International Airport with a woman who was not his wife (no word on what kind of settlement she received) and another male friend. I suppose these people were all French because published reports claim they engaged in something called a menage a trois.
I am not sure who did what to whom, but the two men and the woman supposedly had relations with one another and the pre-stress-test stress was too much for the soon to be deceased. He had a heart attack and died after having sex "multiple times" that night, according to the widow's attorney.
I would not have wanted to be the one who made that phone call to the dead man's wife.
It's a great country, isn't it? The widow sued the doctor on the grounds that he should have recognized that her husband's condition was much more serious and warranted immediate care. Besides, the doc didn't warn the husband to limit his sexual activity until they got to the bottom of his problem. What medical professional doesn't remind a heart patient that sex with another man and a woman could be fatal?
The jury saw it the way the widow and her attorneys saw it and gave the woman the aforementioned multi-million dollar settlement.
I guess I still haven't heard everything, but I'm coming close. I think we have taken one more giant step forward into a land where all personal accountability is going to be thrown right out the window. Ironically, I just wrote last Wednesday that I was considering taking up suing people as a second career. My stated intentions were to sue anonymous people who hurt my feelings, but this case opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for me.
I have seen a number of doctors my entire life, for instance, and not a single solitary one of them ever advised me against contracting cancer. There ya go! They were all clearly negligent and their insurance companies all have deep pockets.
I counted up recently and I have seen more than a dozen doctors this year alone. There are a lot of things none of them have advised me against doing. None of them have told me not to play in traffic or jump out of an airplane without a parachute or try to pick up the wife of a professional football player in his presence. There are all kinds of ways I can make money off this precedent.
My daddy always said that he wanted to live to be 101 and get shot by a jealous husband. He lived in the wrong day and age. If I make it 41 more years that may be just what I'll do -- and if she plays her cards right my lovely wife Lisa can become a wealthy widow.
If so, I hope she shares her windfall with Mary Supple. Besides, I think she owes her just a little bit.Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.