N.J. medical expert testifies in Madison County wrongful death case

Amelia Flood Apr. 22, 2009, 2:14am


Dr. Aaron Chevinsky may practice in New Jersey, but he has made his opinion – via DVD - known in a wrongful death trial in Madison County.

Jurors heard expert witness testimony in the first day of the trial pitting plaintiff Russell Darbon, 44, of Edwardsville against Dr. Jose A. Diaz Jr., who treated his now deceased former wife, 43-year old Virginia Gettys.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder is presiding.

Darbon, acting as the special administrator for Gettys' estate, is suing Diaz for negligence in the Gettys' death.

The suit alleges Diaz failed to perform necessary tests on Gettys when she was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland in January 2004. Gettys, who complained of abdominal pain two days after a colonoscopy, died three days after being taken to the Highland emergency room.

An autopsy showed that Gettys died of sepsis stemming from a severe
kidney infection.

Gettys was not treated for the kidney infection, although both St. Joseph's and St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield, Mo. where she was transferred, attempted to identify her ailment. St. Luke's has an infectious disease unit, something the Highland hospital lacked.

The plaintiff further contends that Diaz performed an unnecessary surgery on Gettys and that he failed to transfer her to a facility better able to treat her in a timely fashion.

Plaintiff expert Chevinsky testified that, although Gettys' symptoms had presented in an unusual way, there were enough signs pointing to the kidney infection to necessitate further tests before surgery.

He also said that by delaying Gettys' transfer to a different hospital, Diaz and the other doctors caring for Gettys greatly reduced her chances of surviving the sepsis he said was likely showing symptoms when she was first taken to St. Joseph's.

"Any intervention done earlier is going to have a much greater effect," Chevinsky said on the DVD.

The defense disputes Chevinsky's testimony and Darbon's suit. On cross examination, Chevinsky admitted he was wrong about one of the signs he had testified the doctors should have noticed in 2004.

According to Chevinsky in his original testimony, there were "many" bacteria – a sign of illness – found in urine taken from Gettys. Upon questions from the defense and a further analysis, Chevinsky admitted the "many" were really few.

Chevinsky continued to stick to his opinion that the Highland staff had erred in treating and not-transferring Gettys and that those actions contributed to her death.

"I think they should have recognized that this patient was out of their league," Chevinsky said.

Darbon is represented by Jon Carlson.

Diaz is represented by Timothy Richards.

The case was originally filed in 2004. The case is set to resume Wednesday at 9 a.m.

The case is Madison case 04-L-1427.

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