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Late Steeler Dwight White's family sues UPMC, doctors

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By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010
 

The family of the late Pittsburgh Steelers star Dwight White has filed a malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against UPMC and its top neurosurgeon, Dr. Joseph C. Maroon.

In the 18-page complaint filed Monday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, White's widow, Karen, and his daughter, Stacey, charged that doctors and other staff failed to properly diagnose and treat White when he suffered a pulmonary embolism after routine back surgery.

Family attorney Arthur L. Schwarzwaelder said White's treatment was "a sad story of missed opportunities resulting in an entirely preventable death."

White, who had been a patient of Maroon's for at least 11 years, underwent surgery for a herniated disc on May 13, 2008, in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, according to the suit.

The two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman was discharged the next day, but, the suit charges, steps that could have prevented his death had been delayed or omitted.

White returned home and soon afterward "his symptoms and weakness progressed to where he was essentially bedridden."

Attempts to reach Maroon by Karen White failed because he was out of town, the complaint charges. Another physician then prescribed an over-the-counter medication. Later, another aide to Maroon prescribed a laxative.

On May 17, White was taken to UPMC St Margaret near Aspinwall by his wife, who had become increasingly concerned despite the lack of response from his doctors. White was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

After a transfer to UPMC Presbyterian's intensive care unit, White's condition, the suit states, "was eminently treatable as long as he received proper care."

The family charges that physicians prescribed a blood thinning agent, but failed to monitor its effects in violation of the hospital's own protocols.

The complaint charges that White's condition worsened and efforts to save his life through surgery failed.

White, of O'Hara, who died on June 6, 2008, at age 58, was part of the Steelers' famed Steel Curtain defense and was nicknamed "Mad Dog." He retired in 1980 and became a financial consultant.

Schwarzwaelder said that the UPMC physicians "missed multiple opportunities" to prevent White's death.

UPMC officials said last night that they had just learned about the lawsuit and had no comment.

In addition to Maroon and UPMC, the suit names as defendants Drs. Matt El-Kadi and Jigme Sethi and Tri State Neurological Associates.

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