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Mistrial Called in Reggie Lewis Case

June 24, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ A judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the malpractice case against a renowned cardiologist after a jury could not decide if his diagnosis contributed to the death of Celtics star Reggie Lewis. Two consulting physicians were cleared of wrongdoing.

The decision came after the jury, for a second time within 24 hours, said it was deadlocked over whether Dr. Gilbert Mudge was culpable in Lewis’ death.

Earlier in the day, Judge Thayer Fremont-Smith had exhorted the jury to make a ``last good effort″ to reach a verdict on Mudge, who had contradicted the opinions of several prominent physicians by telling Lewis he suffered from a benign fainting condition and not a life-threatening heart disease.

After more than 30 hours of deliberations, the jurors had said Wednesday night they were at an impasse concerning Mudge, who treated the former Celtics captain before he collapsed and died shooting baskets.

In order to reach a verdict, agreement was need among 13 of the 15 jurors, who heard nearly seven weeks of testimony.

Lewis’ wife, Donna Harris-Lewis, sued Mudge and the consultants, Drs. Mark Creager and Peter Friedman, claiming they misdiagnosed and mistreated her husband’s fatal heart condition. A third consultant settled for an undisclosed sum before trial.

Her attorneys sought at least $75 million, saying that was the sum Lewis would have earned if he didn’t die.

Lewis collapsed during a playoff game in April 1993 and was subsequently diagnosed with a life-threatening, potentially career-ending cardiac arrhythmia by a ``Dream Team″ of top doctors from New England Baptist Hospital.

The Lewises then turned to Mudge, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who examined Lewis and announced at a news conference the player instead had a neurological condition that causes fainting spells. Mudge said he probably could return to professional basketball.

Two months later, on July 27, 1993, Lewis died practicing jump shots. He was 27.

Lawyers for Harris-Lewis had suggested Mudge’s judgment was clouded by his search for glory as the doctor who proved the ``Dream Team″ wrong.

As testimony turned to alleged drug use by the popular sports star, Harris-Lewis’ attorneys also suggested that Mudge, desperate to cover up his mistakes, was ``searching the gutters″ for alternative explanations for the death of his most famous patient.

Mudge maintained that Lewis admitted to cocaine use two weeks before he died. He said the belated confession made an accurate diagnosis impossible, and called several convicted felons to testify to alleged cocaine and marijuana use by Lewis.

Mudge also had said he privately suspected the player might have a serious heart condition _ and was treating him with beta blockers that addressed both the fainting condition and the possible cardiac problem.

He said he told the family and the Celtics of his concerns, but both groups disputed that claim.

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