BEFORE HAWKINS, DAN LEE AND ANDERSON
ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
The appeal now before us grew out of an appalling tragedy. On July 3, 1982, Larry Donnell Shepherd, a 17-year-old boy in good health, was injured when his eye was struck by a nail he had been hammering. He was quickly taken to the emergency room of Delta Medical Center in Greenville. There he was examined by co-defendant Dr. Robert Suares, who determined that the cornea and retina of Shepherd's left eye were badly damaged, and that emergency surgery was necessary to avert loss of sight. The surgery began at about midnight on July 3/4 and lasted well into the morning. It was completed without apparent incident, and Shepherd was taken to the recovery room. Very soon after his arrival there, it became evident that he had gone into cardiac arrest. Doctors and nurses were summoned, and emergency resuscitation was begun. After laboring for an hour and a half, the team succeeded in re-establishing a heartbeat. By that time, however, Shepherd's brain had been deprived of oxygen for a considerable period, and the damage was severe. Shepherd never regained consciousness, and died in the hospital on August 4, 1982. A neurologist had determined that he was "brain dead" several days before his heart actually stopped. At trial, there was testimony that the cardiac arrest was caused by an anaphylactic shock reaction to the antibiotic drug Keflin, which was administered at or near the close of the surgery.
Larry Shepherd's mother, Mary Lee Shepherd, and the other appellants in the present case filed a complaint in wrongful death against Delta Medical Center and numerous individual defendants, alleging that Shepherd's death resulted from negligence on the part of hospital personnel in failing to provide adequate post-operative care.
When the case came to trial, the plaintiffs presented only one medical expert - Dr. John Adriani. Upon the close of voir dire, the trial judge ruled that Dr. Adriani had not demonstrated sufficient knowledge of the local standard of care for doctors then prevailing under King
v. Murphy, 424 So. 2d 547 (Miss. 1982). He therefore excluded Dr. Adriani's testimony. Realizing that without expert medical testimony they had no case, plaintiffs' counsel moved for a voluntary dismissal without prejudice under Rule 41(a) (2), Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, so that they could obtain another expert and start over. The trial judge denied this motion without comment. The inevitable result was that, on defense motion, the court directed a verdict for all the defendants. The appeal of that ruling is now before us.
It is obvious from the record that Dr. Adriani is an anesthesiologist of very great distinction. *fn1l Nonetheless, his testimony was excluded - a casualty of the traditional
"locality rule" . Under that rule, as modified by this Court in King v. Murphy, supra,:
[t]he standard of care by which the acts or omissions of physicians, surgeons, or specialists were [to be judged was to] be that degree of care, skill and diligence practiced by reasonably careful, skilful and prudent practioners in such field of practice or specialty in this state, and for a reasonable distance adjacent to state boundaries. An expert witness who [was] knowledgeable of and familiar with the statewide standard of care [was not to] have his testimony excluded on the grounds that he [did] not practice in this state.
Were the same question to be posed today, the ruling would surely be different. Since the case at bar was tried, this Court has brought about a revolution in the standards governing malpractice actions. In the second case of Hall v. Hilbun, 466 So. 2d 856 (Miss. 1985), we effectively did away with the locality rule. After an extended consideration of the issues involved, we gave this description of the physician's duty of care:
Given the circumstances of each patient, each physician has a duty to use his or her knowledge and therewith treat . . . each patient with such reasonable diligence, competence, and prudence as practiced by minimally
competent physicians in the same speciality or general field of practice . . . throughout the United States who have available to them the same general ...