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Closing Arguments in Lewis Case

June 16, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ Under the gaze of Reggie Lewis’ widow and small children, an attorney for Dr. Gilbert Mudge implored a jury Wednesday to find that the cardiologist acted carefully and reasonably while treating the late Celtics star.

``Things are a lot easier to look at in hindsight,″ defense lawyer William Dailey Jr. said in his closing argument at the malpractice trial stemming from the player’s death.

``Medicine is not a precise science,″ Dailey said. ``(Dr. Mudge) was put in a position where he had to exercise his best judgment.″

The jury was scheduled to begin deliberations on Thursday after receiving instructions from the judge.

The trial has centered on whether Mudge, along with Brigham and Women’s Hospital colleagues Drs. Peter Friedman and Mark Creager, misdiagnosed and mistreated Lewis’ fatal heart condition after the 27-year-old team captain collapsed during a playoff game in May 1993.

Mudge offered a second opinion that flew in the face of a ``Dream Team″ of New England Baptist Hospital doctors, who diagnosed Lewis with a life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia.

After telling Lewis he had a benign fainting condition, Mudge called a news conference to announce that the 27-year-old team captain could likely return to professional basketball.

Two months later, on July 27, 1993, Lewis died of an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, while practicing jump shots.

Robert Harley, an attorney for Lewis’ widow, Donna Harris-Lewis, has accused Mudge of arrogantly discounting the opinions of other doctors regarding Lewis’ care and erring by allowing the star to leave the hospital with a life-threatening heart condition.

``One must ask whether Dr. Mudge wanted to be the doctor who could prove the ‘Dream Team’ of doctors wrong,″ he said during closing arguments Wednesday.

Harris-Lewis, who was joined in court for the first time Wednesday by her children Reggie Jr., 6, and Reggiena, 5, is suing the doctors for the money Lewis would have made had he lived, which witnesses for the plaintiffs have estimated at more than $100 million.

Defense attorneys say there is no way to know if Lewis could have returned to professional basketball, or how long he would have lived had he received different treatment.

In their closings, attorneys for Friedman and Creager said the consultants were peripheral to the case and should not be held responsible for anything said by Mudge, who was Lewis’ main doctor, at the news conference.

Defense attorneys also emphasized that the infamous news conference was not a treatment plan, but a staged public relations event at which Mudge purposely did not reveal his private suspicions about Lewis’ possible heart problem.

Seven weeks of testimony have pitted Lewis’ survivors against some of the city’s most well-respected doctors. Testimony ranged from complex medical assessments by dozens of experts to allegations of cocaine use by convicted felons.

Mudge alleged that two weeks before he died, Lewis admitted to the doctor that he had used cocaine. Mudge contends the late confession made an accurate diagnosis impossible.

Harley attacked the charge as a dirty move intended only to smear the reputation of the NBA All-Star.

``If the medical defense is so good ... why would they stoop so low to destroy the reputation of one of the finest young men of his generation?″ he asked.

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