Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Day Away

It is now almost 24 hours since we (the jury) gave our verdict in court. My heart is still so filled with sadness for the Lee family. Mr. Lee is what is termed a 'partial' quadriplegic. After four years of intensive therapy, he has use of his arms. What he doesn't have is his dignity. He is an intelligent, alert octogenarian who walked into St. John's Hospital, after a referral from his orthopaedic doctor in Hong Kong, saw the top gun in the world for this particular 'procedure' and left St. John's one month later on a stretcher.

Were the three doctors/defendants negligent in providing medical care and treatment to Mr. Kenneth Lee on and after January 9, 2001?
The 11 other jurists,the three alternate jurors and I were filled with sadness for Mr. Lee, but we didn't feel that his situation was the result of his surgery or his after-surgical care and that is what this case was about. We, to a person, said no. It was proved to us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mr. Lee's surgery was a success and that after coming out of surgery in great condition (for a 76-year old), three days later was in intensive care, intubated, in a semi-coma and unresponsive to pinpricks or other stimuli. The final witness...the sexy witness...Dr. Andrew Woo...testified that without any shred of doubt in his mind, Mr. Lee had not one, but two strokes...infarcts of the brain and the cervical cord. He didn't waiver under intense questioning and didn't rise to the accusatory tone of the plaintiff's attorneys. He was cool, calm and wore a suit extremely well, as opposed to most of the other doctors who took the stand. Although Mr. Woo was one of Mr. Lee's treating neurologists (there are two other partners in this practice and they took hospital patient care on one week shifts), he was not being sued by the plaintiff and I never did quite understand why.

All I truly understand is that the doctors will return to their normal lives, we jurists will return to our normal lives and, unfortunately, Mr. Lee and his family will return to what has become their normal lives. One comment made by Mr. Lee on the witness stand brought tears to my eyes then and now. It was said in fluent but heavily accented English (Mr. Lee is an American citizen who moved to America in his early 20s) and it went something like this. "I am so sad for my beautiful bride of 50 years that she has now problem of me." I understood exactly what he meant...exactly.


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