A Waco doctor accused of medical malpractice testified Monday he provided proper care to an ailing retired Central Freight Lines employee who later was diagnosed with a rare skin condition and died from sepsis.
Mildred Slaughter, the sister of Harold Hutchinson, is seeking more than $4 million in her wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Michael Burbidge Jr., a family practice physician with the Providence Health Alliance in Waco.
Hutchinson, a dock worker for 32 years at Central Freight Lines, died on his 78th birthday in August 2011 from sepsis, a complication from infections that caused swelling throughout his body.
Dallas attorney Todd Turner, who represents Slaughter and Hutchinson’s estate, told jurors that Burbidge prescribed Bactrim, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, for Burbidge and that led to him developing a rare skin disorder known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
The syndrome causes painful rashes, skin lesions and fever.
Colin O’Neill, Burbidge’s attorney, countered that Burbidge prescribed Bactrim only twice during the three years that he was Hutchinson’s primary care physician and those were only in limited, 10-day prescriptions. Hutchinson suffered from diabetes, prostate ailments, high blood pressure and a variety of other conditions and nothing Burbidge did contributed to or hastened his death, O’Neill said.
Turner originally sued the Providence Health Alliance when he filed the suit in March 2013. But, he dismissed the health care network as a defendant three days before the trial started.
Burbidge, a former U.S. Army major who served as a flight surgeon with the 4th Infantry Division, went over his course of treatment for Hutchinson, starting in April 2009 through January 2011.
Burbidge said he prescribed Bactrim twice for rashes Hutchinson complained of, but said they were for limited times only.
After Burbidge last treated Hutchinson in his office, Hutchinson was admitted to Providence Health Center and the former Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco. While Burbidge was still Hutchinson’s primary care physician, he said he only received reports of what other doctors did while Hutchinson was being cared for at the two Waco hospitals.
Turner showed Burbidge a notation from a Hillcrest physician that said Hutchinson was “placed on” Bactrim 10 days before a family member took him to the hospital.
Burbidge said if that was correct, he was not the doctor who prescribed Bactrim for Hutchinson, noting that Hutchinson was a “poor historian” when it came to correctly reciting what medications he was taking and his medical care. Burbidge said the last time he prescribed Bactrim for Hutchinson was at least six months before his first hospital stay.
Burbidge said hospital officials faxed those records to his office and, at times, it was a month before he read them.
Turner asked Burbidge why he didn’t call hospital officials to correct them if their records were wrong. The doctor said Hutchinson might have gotten the Bactrim from an emergency care clinic or somewhere else, adding he had no way of knowing.
Hutchinson was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome at Hillcrest and transferred to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas in March 2011. He was released and lived in a Waco nursing home before his death Aug. 15, 2011.
Court officials expect the trial to last through Thursday. Testimony will continue Wednesday. The courthouse is closed Tuesday for Veterans Day.