Former Pittsburgh Coroner Served Both Sides in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
For several years, news media in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have been covering the activities of the city’s former coroner. The doctor has been embroiled in legal charges regarding the use of city facilities and staff to conduct independent investigations for which he received financial compensation. One incident involved a medical malpractice case involving the death of a 16 year old girl.
When the girl died in 1996, the doctor performed the girl’s autopsy. His report listed the cause of death as “complications of an acute, overwhelming viral infection.” After the girl’s family filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the treating physician and hospital, the doctor was hired by the defendants to appear as an expert witness on their behalf and paid for the production of his report.
Subsequently, the doctor claimed he did further research and filed a second autopsy report stating the girl died from Reye’s Syndrome. The new report was dated the same as the original, and did not include any addendum or explanation for the change in cause of death. Forensic experts claim it is against accepted practice to re-issue an autopsy report with a different cause of death without creating an addendum explaining the change.
The attorneys representing the girl’s family also paid the doctor for the second report and filed legal papers asking the doctor to testify on behalf of the family. The court ultimately ruled that the doctor was precluded from testifying in the case. The medical malpractice case was ultimately settled in 2001.
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