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Thomas A. Moore and Matthew Gaier

At the end of December 2018, HBO released a feature length documentary about a medical malpractice action. It was written, produced and directed by Steve Burrows, a comedy director, and it tells the story of what happened to his mother, Judie, as well as the lawsuit that followed. In addition to covering issues of medicine, law, and politics, the film poignantly portrays the extraordinary damage that flows from a brain injury that some may regard as less than catastrophic because the victim is able to walk and speak clearly. This film should be of particular interest to anyone who has had involvement with lawsuits stemming from medical negligence, including doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, and perhaps even jurors who have sat on such a case in the past.

The Plot

The story started in June of 2009, when Judie, an active and independent 69 year-old retired special education teacher from Milwaukee, Wisc., fell and broke her hip. She was rushed to Aurora West Allis Medical Center in Milwaukee, and was operated on by her surgeon and family friend, Dr. Bauer. He had previously done two successful total knee replacement surgeries on her. After performing surgery on her hip, Judie underwent rehabilitation and was sent home. Her recovery from this surgery was difficult, and five months later she fell again.

Judie returned to the same hospital, where they determined that she had not broken her hip. They were prepared to discharge her, but she was in a great deal of pain, and at the family’s insistence, she was admitted. During the hospitalization they determined that she had, in fact, broken her hip, and on the eighth day of the hospitalization Dr. Bauer decided to operate—the family would later learn that by mid-summer he had concluded that the June surgery was failing.

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