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DR. MAX PHARR v. GERALD ANDERSON & PATRICIA ANDERSON

MAY 25, 1983

DR. MAX PHARR
v.
GERALD ANDERSON & PATRICIA ANDERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED



EN BANC.

ROY NOBLE LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

PART I

Gerald Anderson and Patricia Anderson filed suit against Dr. Max Pharr, Dr. Mary Wheatley, Nurse Patricia Nutter and St. Dominics Hospital in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District, Hinds County, Mississippi, seeking damages for malpractice which resulted in the death of their mother, Mrs. Joyce Anderson. The case was settled as to Dr. Mary Wheatley, Nurse Patricia Nutter and St. Dominics Hospital for the sum of $100,000, and it proceeded to trial against Dr. Max Pharr. The jury returned a verdict of $65,000 in favor of the appellees, judgment was entered in that amount, and Dr. Pharr has appealed here assigning six errors in the trial below.

 Mrs. Joyce Anderson, age 41, had a long history of being a diabetic. Dr. Max Pharr had been treating her since 1976, and Dr. Mary Wheatley, a psychiatrist, had been treating her for approximately the same period. Mrs. Anderson had been admitted and discharged from hospitals by each doctor over a period of years. Both doctors were aware of the other's

 treatment of her.

 On January 15, 1979, Mrs. Anderson was admitted to St. Dominics Hospital at approximately 11:50 p.m. complaining of vomiting, diarrhea, and inability to eat. Dr. Joe G. Stribling, who was assigned to the emergency room, ordered various tests, determined that her blood sugar level was 431 mg., and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. The next morning Dr. Pharr's partner assumed the care of Mrs. Anderson, and after four days, she was released on January 20, 1979, with a final diagnosis of gastroenteritis.

 Mrs. Anderson called Dr. Pharr on January 23, 1979, complaining about her condition, and he advised her to go to the emergency room at St. Dominics Hospital. He called there, made arrangements for her to be admitted to the emergency room, and ordered two series of drips, each one requiring six hours to complete, making a total of twelve hours. The time was around 2 p.m.

 About 3:30 p.m., Mrs. Anderson became distressed. She was crying, screaming and uncontrollable, and Dr. Pharr, upon being called from the emergency room, advised the nurse to contact Dr. Mary Wheatley, the patient's psychiatrist, about her condition. Dr. Wheatley went to the emergency room, examined Mrs. Anderson, prescribed sedatives for her, and was successful in calming her. She was in the emergency room about 1 1/2 hours. Mrs. Anderson wanted to go home, and Dr. Wheatley stated that when she became quiet she could be discharged, and so told the nurse in charge, Patricia Nutter. Dr. Wheatley was listed on the hospital chart as the patient's physician, along with Dr. Pharr. There was testimony, including that of Emergency Room Nurse Patricia Nutter, that Dr. Wheatley discharged Mrs. Anderson, but Dr. Wheatley denied she had done so. She did testify that she told the nurse that insofar as she, Dr. Wheatley, was concerned, the patient could go home. She left the emergency room for home at approximately six o'clock.

 About twenty to thirty minutes after the patient's discharge, Dr. Pharr went to the emergency room and hospital for the purpose of checking his patients. He inquired as to Mrs. Anderson's whereabouts, and the nurse on duty advised him that she had been discharged, which was fine with Dr. Pharr. He did not examine her records to determine what treatment had been administered and what her condition was, according to the chart.

 Mrs. Anderson's condition grew worse at home, but no physician was called. About 2 a.m., January 24, her condition

 had worsened to the point that family members took her to the emergency room of St. Dommics Hospital, but, on the way, she stopped breathing and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

 Except that he failed to review her chart of January 23 and failed to have her returned to the hospital for additional treatment, appellees do not contend that Dr. Pharr improperly treated Mrs. Anderson, or did anything wrong in his care or treatment of her. Further, that in so doing, or not doing, Dr. Pharr did not use or exercise the standard of care required in the Jackson area of a family physician.

 Dr. Pharr contends that the standard of care does not require an attending physician, where another physician has entered the case and has discharged the patient, to do anything further insofar as reviewing records or attempting to return the patient to the hospital.

 1.

 Did the lower court err in holding that the appellees' witness, Dr. John Cockrell, is qualified as an expert in the field of family medicine?

 Dr. John Cockrell was the only expert witness who testified for appellees on the standard of care required of a physician under the facts of this case and on causal connection between the discharge (treatment) of Mrs. Anderson and her cause of death. His educational and employment background follows:

 M.D. Degree - 1937 Columbia College of Physicians &

 Surgeons, New York Internship & Residency - 1941 Presbyterian Hospital,

 New York Resident Surgeon - 1940-42 - Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown,

 New York Lt. Commander, Public Health Service - 1943-46 - U. S.

 Marine Hospital, Buffalo, New York and Galveston, Texas Chief of Surgery - 1946-55 - Veterans' Administration

 Hospital, Jackson, Mississippi Chief of Staff - 1955-68 - Veterans' Administration

 Hospital, Jackson, Mississippi Retired from Federal Service - 1968 Resident and Chief Pathologist - 1968-71 - University

 Hospital, Jackson, Mississippi Pathology Instructor - 1971-77 - University Hospital,

 Jackson, Mississippi Retired - 1977

 Currently Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery and

 Pathology, Jackson, Mississippi Board Certified in Surgery and Anatomical Pathology Seventeen Publications Listed

 In addition, Dr. Cockrell testified that he knew the standard of care as it applies to general practitioners because he had been associated with internists and general practitioners over the years, was Chief of Staff at Veterans' Administration Hospital for thirteen years and supervised the Admissions Office, where his duties consisted of trying to solve any problems which arose. He stated that he had not been involved in anything resembling or applicable to the practice of family medicine, but that family practice of medicine is not a great deal different than any other part of the medical practice and that ...


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