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Healthcare: Jury finds doctor not responsible for teen’s cancer death

Dr. Amanda Drosieko and Inlet Pediatrics were not liable for the 2008 death of a Pawleys Island area teen, Ashley Gaines, a jury decided Monday.

The verdict came after about two hours of deliberation following six days of testimony from a series of expert witnesses, Drosieko and two of her colleagues, and Ashley’s parents, David and Melanie Gaines.

Drosieko is founding pediatrician at Inlet Pediatrics, where Ashley was treated prior to being diagnosed in April 2007 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She died the following year due to complications related to treatment for the disease at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian. She was 18.

The Gaineses brought suit against Drosieko and Inlet Pediatrics, alleging medical malpractice. Their attorneys argued that the failure of Drosieko’s practice to diagnose Ashley’s cancer earlier played a role in her death.

The jury found in favor of Drosieko and her practice on all counts and no damages were awarded. For the Gaineses to have won, they would have had to prove to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Ashley most probably would have survived if her diagnosis had come earlier.

“The truth is we can’t know that,” Drosieko’s attorney, Hugh Buyck of Buyck & Sanders, told the jury in his closing statement.

“This is a gut-wrenching case ... for all of us,” he said. But he asked the jury to put away their passions and sympathies and think about whether Drosieko and others at the practice who treated Ashley acted reasonably and met the standard of care.

“It’s sad. This whole story is sad, but sympathy has no place in this courtroom,” he said.

Kevin Dean of Motley Rice law firm, an attorney for the Gaineses, agreed on that count, asking the jury to find in favor of his clients because it was right and just, and not out of sympathy. He described Melanie as a mother who had done everything she could for her child and been failed by health care professionals. He asked the jury to hold Drosieko and Inlet Pediatrics accountable, and also award damages to the family including lost wages and pain and suffering, which he suggested could be valued in excess of $1 million.

Dean also wondered in his closing statement if he had adequately described Ashley for the jury. He said he questioned if he should have called more witnesses to help them get a feeling for who she was.

More about the trial in our Thursday edition.

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