West Palm Beach, FL—Dr. Charles Metzger, the physician at the center of a medical malpractice suit involving an affiliated medicine firm, took the witness stand on Tuesday, characterizing himself as the "point guard" with authority over his patients' care and defending his treatment of a concierge services patient who ultimately had her leg amputated. Beber v. MDVIP, et al., 50-2009-CA-034380.
Robert Beber is suing Metzger and his medical practice, as well as concierge medical group MDVIP, with which Metzger’s practice is affiliated, claiming Metzger failed to adequately treat his wife , Joan Beber's, vascular disease. Joan Beber, who complained to Metzger of leg pain in early February 2008, was initially treated for sciatica. By March, she was diagnosed with advanced vascular disease and underwent an above-the-knee amputation. Joan Beber died in 2012 from leukemia.
However at trial Tuesday, Metzger said there were no tell-tale symptoms of vascular disease in his initial, February 2008 examinations of Joan Beber. Beber testified that he referred Beber to multiple specialists and that the failure of initial treatments, including epidurals, to relieve her pain did not lead him to suspect another problem. “It’s not uncommon where someone can have sciatica, or back pain going down the leg, receive an epidural, and receive almost no benefit, and sometimes it can initially be a little worse,” Metzger said. “But the fact that she didn’t benefit from it didn’t seem out of the ordinary in any way.”
Metzger testified that he acted as promptly as possible when Dr. Gary Gieseke, a neurosurgeon who examined Beber in early March 2008, told Metzger that he suspected a vascular condition. By the time the condition was definitively diagnosed, however, physicians were unable to save her leg.
Metzger emphasized to jurors that he, not MDVIP, controlled his day-to-day practice. Metzger testified that he managed “every single part” of his practice and his medical treatment was completely independent of the concierge firm's authority. Metzger testified that his affiliation with MDVIP, a firm that charges members a fee in exchange for more personalized care, merely allowed him a lighter case load. “What MDVIP allows me to do is have a smaller more personalized practice where I’ll never go above 600 patients. It keeps my practice smaller, more personalized. It’s better for the patient, better for me.”
However, Robert Beber’s attorneys argue that Metzger failed to promptly consider potential vascular causes of Beber's leg pain and that MDVIP is responsible for that negligence because of the authority it held over the physician. During opening statements in January, Andrea Robinson emphasized the ties between MDVIP and Beber. “Dr. Metzger is (MDVIP’s) doctor,” Robinson said. “You’re going to see a slew of different areas where they actively control and pull the different strings of an MDVIP doctor.”
During cross-examination Tuesday, Beber’s legal team asked Metzger to detail his connections to MDVIP. Metzger acknowledged that everything from identification cards to stationery identified him as an MDVIP physician. "I’ve not told (my patients) anything different” from that message, Metzger testified.
Metzger also acknowledged he was contractually responsible to MDVIP for his patients’ treatment, including allowing MDVIP to review all medical records relating to patient care and ensure that his treatment met acceptable medical standards.
Regarding his treatment of Joan Beber, Metzger conceded his prior deposition testimony noting that, on at least one occasion in February 2008, his nurse, rather than Metzger himself, referred Joan Beber to a back specialist.
While Metzger also acknowledged prior testimony admitting that he never explored a vascular cause for Beber’s leg pain until after being contacted by Gieseke, he explained that his prior answer had been incomplete. “I felt pulses that felt normal to me… and as a result, I didn’t go down the vascular route,” Metzger said. “That’s how I would answer it, kind of an amendment to that (earlier) answer."
Closings in the case are expected by the end of the week. Attorneys for the parties could not be reached for comment.
Attorneys in the case include:
- Andrea Robinson, Karen Terry and Jack Scarola, from Searcy Denney, representing the plaintiff.
- David O. Doyle, Jeffrey Keiner, and Justin Marshall, from Gray Robinson, representing defendants.
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