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Malpractice trial continues with defendant testifying

Published October 21. 2009 05:00PM

A physician who is a defendant in a malpractice case now underway in the Schuylkill County Court was called as a witness Tuesday by the plaintiff in the suit.

Dr. Kailash R. Makhija, of 281 N. 12th St., Lehighton, was questioned by counsel for Leonard D. Clouser, of 434 Willing St., Tamaqua, who filed the malpractice suit as administrator of the estate of his late wife, Gina, who died from a rare bacterial disease in her blood stream.

The doctor was asked about his treatment. The doctor had seen her on only one occasion, July 29, 2000, in the hospital emergency room.

Gina Clouser was a patient of Dr. Richard C. Miller, also of 281 N. 12th St., Lehighton. Dr. Makhija filled in as Miller was not available when Gina called the doctor's office complaining of illness.

Dr. Makhija testified he told her to report to the emergency room at St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale, and he would come and see her.

He was questioned why he didn't carry out more tests to find the cause of illness. An expert witness, Dr. Jeffrey W. Lerch, of Illinois, had testified the doctors met the standards of medical procedure as to what they did but should have done more, and that the bacterial infection she suffered could have been treated with antibiotics and she would still be alive.

Dr. Makhija testified his diagnosis of the patient in the emergency room consisted of taking her temperature, which was 97.7 and found she was a normal female who had a Caesarian section and delivered a healthy baby girl. He testified she complained she didn't feel well. He explained the procedure he used in examination.

"I look at the whole person, how they walk and breathe, check the charts for vital symptoms and perform all tasks required." Dr. Makhija said he also ordered various tests performed of her vitals.

He also testified he checked the area on the incision for the Caesarian Section performed by his colleague, Dr. Miller, and detected no fever and she had no pain in the area. She didn't look sick, she looked tired, he testified.

He ordered blood work performed before she left the hospital and told her when she got home to take her temperature every four hours and if she still felt ill to return to the emergency room. He also said he advised her to see her family physician. He said he found no fever and had no reason to admit her as a patient in the hospital.

Specialists testify

Two more specialists were called to testify to give their expert opinion on the medical procedure administered to Gina Clouser and the cause of her death.

Dr. Edward Davison, rated as one of the top cardiologists in New York, testified of reviewing the records of the hospitals in which Gina Clouser was a patient and the records of the three doctors who treated her and are charged with malpractice, Drs. Makhija and Miller of Lehighton, and Dr. Thomas J. Dirnberger of Tamaqua.

Dr. Davison testified Clouser contacted a rare bacterial infection in her blood stream and if it had been discovered in its early stages it could have been treated with antibiotics.

Questioned by counsel for the doctors, Dr. Davison said he was being paid a flat fee of $6,000 for his services in the case. He said he had appeared as a witness for plaintiffs and defendants.

Dr. John J. Shane, a native of Freeland, who was associated with the Lehigh Valley Hospital for 28 years, also admitted he has worked as an expert and had reviewed over 400 cases. He said his fee was $2,500 a day.

His opinion of the cause of death was by a complication of bacteria infection in the blood stream which went to her brain and also affected other vital organs, including the heart and liver. He said the symptoms for acquiring the infection are fever, vomiting, irregular breathing, loss of appetite, and the manner of treating is a high dose of antibiotics injected into the blood stream.

Dr. Shane claimed when Clouser complained of not feeling well three weeks before admission to the hospital, the high dosage should have been administered intravenously and that she was given several tablets which were insufficient.

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