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Friday, May 04, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Still more on the Mullins v. Parkview decision

The Indiana Supreme Court decision May 2nd in Ruth Mullins and Johnce Mullins, Jr. v. Parkview Hospital, Inc., et al. is reported today by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette via a story by Niki Kelly. Kelly (as always) does a good job of laying out the facts:

A student in the University of Saint Francis emergency medical technician program cannot be sued for her participation in a botched procedure at Parkview Hospital, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

But the case can go forward against two doctors involved and their individual practices.

W. Ruth Mullins sued after LaRea VanHoey tore Mullins’ esophagus during a 2000 surgery.

VanHoey tried to intubate Mullins – a common medical procedure where a tube is inserted into a patient’s throat to ensure that airways remain open during surgery.

But the damage required a second surgery, and Mullins had to spend more than a month in the hospital recovering.

Several weeks before the procedure, her surgeon, Dr. Marvin E. Eastlund, provided her with an informed consent document on which she indicated she did not want health care students in the operating room.

Mullins also signed a document from anesthesiologist Dr. Kathryn Carboneau that said only Carboneau or “a physician privileged to practice” anesthesia care would perform specified duties.

The judge at the trial court level granted summary judgment for all the defendants in the case, essentially ending the suit without a trial. But the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in 2005 the case could go forward against the student, doctors and their employers.

Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision granted summary judgment to the student, saying there was no evidence that the student intended to harm Mullins – a requirement to prove battery.

“When Dr. Carboneau granted VanHoey permission to attempt intubation, VanHoey had no reason to suspect that Ruth had insisted on modifying the standard consent form,” the ruling said. “We hold that, given VanHoey’s status, she was under no obligation to obtain consent herself.

“The fact that VanHoey did not personally secure Ruth’s consent to her performing the intubation cannot be faulted.”

The story concludes:
Fort Wayne attorney Sherrill Colvin, who represents Mullins, said he is satisfied with the court’s ruling and is ready to move forward with the case, including a possible trial.

“What the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals has done is narrow the appropriate defendants,” he said.

Eastlund, Carboneau and their private practices still must defend the suit. The state cap on medical malpractice cases is $1.25 million.

Working in the doctor’s favor is a unanimous finding by a state Medical Review Panel that Eastlund and Carboneau did not fail to meet the required standard of care.

See a list of earlier ILB entries on this case here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 4, 2007 09:47 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions