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Closing arguments set for Thursday in wrongful death suit

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday in the wrongful-death trial on behalf of former Liberty Regional Medical Center Chief Operating Room Nurse Barbara Porter.

The suit was filed by Porter’s widower, Kenneth Porter, against the three attending physicians overseeing Porter’s care when she was admitted July 29, 2011, to LRMC complaining of severe sub-sternal epigastric pain.

The trial, being heard in Liberty County State Court before Judge Leon Braun, alleges that Dr. Stephen Weiss, Dr. Calin Badea and Dr. Traiana Pacurar did not provide the standard of care Porter deserved. At the crux of the suit is whether the trio of physicians ignored common symptoms of heart disease, solely focusing on gastric and pancreatic issues, and whether requests for medical test were ordered in a timely manner that could have saved Porter’s life.

The trial started four years to the day after Porter was admitted to LRMC and continued until Tuesday morning, when the last of the expert witnesses on behalf of the defense left the stand.

Kenneth Porter’s attorneys Craig Stafford and Jeff Arnold presented a litany of evidence and experts asserting that an electrocardiogram should have been performed immediately after Barbara Porter was admitted based on the location and duration of her pain and her extensive medical history, which included coronary artery disease, diabetes and a host of gastric issues.

The attorneys for the defendants argued throughout the trial that Porter’s overall medical history was taken into account during her initial admittance. They all presented testimony showing that during Porter’s admittance and up until 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2011, Porter did not exhibit any signs of acute cardiac conditions.

The defense attorneys also pointed their fingers at LRMC, saying an EKG was ordered by Pacurar and eventually performed at 3:38 p.m. July 30, 2011.

The EKG report indicated abnormal results, but the test results were never placed in Porter’s medical chart because of an error by LRMC staff, according to the defense. That meant none of the attending physicians was aware of any abnormal results nor had reason to suspect coronary issues.

Defense attorneys said LRMC has already reached a settlement with the plaintiff and that the hospital has already admitted it was at fault.

Weiss took the stand to speak Friday afternoon to speak about his working relationship with Porter and her longstanding medical history of gastric issues. He indicated that he practiced the standard of care that was needed and medically necessary. He said Porter gave a description of the pain moving from her stomach up to her throat. He said the burning sensation she described fitted her medical history of gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD, or pancreatitis.

Despite a few heated exchanges over terminology and subjective descriptions Weiss had with Stafford regarding the definition of “standard of care,” Weiss said he followed the proper protocol in treating Porter, whom he said was not only his patient, but also a longtime valued member of the OR staff.

Dr. Brent Savelli took the stand Monday morning at the request of Badea’s attorney, Scott Bailey. Savelli is an internal medicine doctor with an established practice in Tifton since 1997.

Savelli testified that he studied all the documents in regard to the care Badea provided.

“In my opinion, Dr. Badea absolutely followed the proper standard of care,” Savelli said.

Defense testimony continued until Tuesday morning. Braun then excused the jurors, giving them a day off. The jury is set to return Thursday morning, when closing arguments will be presented.

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