BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE and PRATHER
ROY NOBLE LEE, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
Byron Neal Todd, Sr. filed suit in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of Jones County, Mississippi, against E. R. Turnbull, M.D., seeking damages for personal injuries on a charge of malpractice. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Turnbull and judgment was entered in his behalf by the lower court. Todd has appealed to this Court assigning three (3) errors in the trial below. We affirm.
The facts of this case are largely undisputed except for the testimony of the parties' expert medical witnesses, which are in direct conflict. In 1974, it was discovered that appellant had cirrhosis of the liver, while hospitalized in Jackson, Mississippi, and the cause of the cirrhosis was related to appellant's excessive alcohol consumption. Between 1974 and December 8, 1981, the date of the trial below, appellant was hospitalized on several occasions. In 1974, a double coronary bypass was performed on him. In 1978, and subsequently, he had problems relating to his liver, which included edema (swelling of the ankles) and ascites (swelling of the abdomen). In addition, he experienced jaundice and spider angiomata, both related to his liver disease.
On December 9, 1979, at approximately 6:45 a.m., appellant cut his thumb while attempting to hang a mirror. He went to the emergency room of the Jones County Hospital where appellee, Dr. E. R. Turnbull, the orthopedic surgeon on call, was summoned. Dr. Turnbull treated and repaired the cut and sutured a severed tendon in appellant's thumb.
Appellee placed appellant's hand in a cast in order to immobilize it. The cast was open at the fingers and extended to the mid-portion of appellant's arm. Appellee instructed him to keep his hand elevated and to return in a week for removal of the stitches. The next day, appellant came back to the hospital complaining of pain and swelling. Appellee determined that the swelling was not severe and he noted that appellant had been drinking alcohol prior to his office visit. Appellee instructed appellant to go home, continue to elevate his arm, and told him not to drink intoxicants. Appellee did not know at that time appellant was an alcoholic or that he had cirrohis of the liver.
On the next day, December 11, 1979, appellant again
returned to appellee's office where appellee discovered that the swelling and pain had increased to such a degree that he removed the cast and placed appellant's right hand in an open splint. Appellee did not feel there was a need to prescribe antibiotics, although he did prescribe a pain killer.
The following day, December 12, appellant was seen in the emergency room by appellee at approximately 7 a.m. There was a marked change in his condition and significant evidence of severe deterioration of his general physical health. He was jaundiced around the scelera, and his hand was very swollen. A physical examination revealed that his lower extremities were swollen, his stomach was protuberant, and his liver was enlarged. Appellant appeared to be confused and disoriented and was obviously quite ill. He was admitted to the hospital for evaluation of his deteriorating medical condition. A local internist, Dr. Daniel Jones, was consulted because of the jaundice and swelling. Jones diagnosed chronic liver disease, probably cirrhosis, due to alcohol abuse.
Appellant's liver condition deteriorated during his hospital stay to the point that his life was in danger. The condition of his hand also worsened. Tissue over the base of his hand became necrotic (tissue looses viability) and the right ring finger became non-viable. Debridement of the tissue was carried out. Eventually, the liver condition stabilized and improved, but because of bleeding problems and difficulty matching blood, appellant was transferred to the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, for further care by a plastic surgeon and gastroentorologist. While hospitalized in Jackson, appellant's right ring finger was amputated, and tendons in his right hand were removed. As a result, appellant has 100% disability to his right hand.
Appellant's expert witnesses' opinions, formed from the facts set forth in hypothetical questions, were that the ultimate deterioration of appellant's hand was due largely to the fact that appellee applied a spica cast rather than a splint at the time he repaired the tendon in appellant's hand. James Martin, a general practitioner from Ocean Springs, stated that the cast applied by appellee "is a constrictive, circularizing, rigid device, which is well known to cause difficulties in injuries of this nature." He further testified that it was this ischemia and necrosis that caused the liver failure at that time.
Frank Martin, brother of Dr. James Martin, a general surgeon from Biloxi, testified in appellant's behalf. His opinion was basically the same as that of his brother upon
hearing the hypothetical questions.
Appellee Dr. Turnbull appeared as his own expert witness and testified that there was no evidence of ischemia on the hand on December 12, 1979, when he first saw appellant and that the rapid deterioration of the hand was caused by the progression of liver failure.
Dr. Daniel W. Jones, an internist from Laurel, who attended appellant while he was in the hospital at Laurel, testified that the swelling of appellant's hand and its subsequent deterioration was caused by appellant's liver disease and had nothing to do with the placement of the cast.
Dr. Michael E. Jabaley, a hand surgeon from Jackson, testified by deposition that in his opinion the use of the thumb spica cast was acceptable. Dr. McWillie Robinson, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon from Jackson, testified that in his opinion the thumb spica cast was appropriate ...