DAMAGES by Barry Werth


One Family's Legal Struggles in the World of Medicine
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 A richly detailed account of a medical malpractice suit that reveals how human-energy-intensive, expensive, and inefficient the medical liability system can be. Werth, a business and science writer (The Billion-Dollar Molecule, 1994), has written an up-close and personal narrative involving the lives of a large, ever-changing cast of characters. He met the Sabias, a working-class couple and their profoundly brain-damaged and physically handicapped son, Tony, through their lawyer, Michael Koskoff, a prominent Connecticut medical malpractice attorney. Tony had an extremely difficult birth and his twin brother was stillborn. Using in-depth interviews, medical records, court documents, and deposition transcripts, Werth has reconstructed dramatic scenes spanning the years from 1983, when the Sabias had their first date (she invited him to pull off I-95 for coffee after hearing him on her CB radio), to 1996, three years after the settlement of their lawsuit against Norwalk Hospital. Besides creating a vivid picture of the Sabias, Werth takes the reader inside the minds of the lawyers at Koskoff's firm, and even into the heart of Dr. Maryellen Humes, who delivered Tony. (Humes's battle with her medical malpractice insurance carrier is a story unto itself.) There are no real villains here, just a host of individuals in an imperfect system trying to protect their own interests. While the Sabias' marriage nearly founders, for six and a half years lawyers on both sides prepare for the trial that no one wants. Medical experts are consulted and depositions are taken, not to discover the truth about what happened to Tony but to construct a persuasive theory. After prolonged maneuvering and delayed trial dates, both sides at last agree to try mediation, a process that soon leads to resolution of the case. Never resolved is just how Tony's brain was damaged, but at least the Sabias received money to care for their helpless son. A gripping, page-turning story, and a revealing and troubling look at our medical liability system.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-80769-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997


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