HONOLULU (CN) – Children of a late NFL wide receiver suing their father’s doctor for medical malpractice cannot mention that an administrative panel found the doctor was “actionably negligent,” a federal judge ruled.
William Parks played with the Dallas Cowbows, San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers as a National Football League wide receiver in the 1970s.
For the last 20 years of his life, Parks bartered his skills as a carpenter for medical services from his friend, Robert Watkins MD.
Parks’ children, Bogart Mumford Parks and Chiya Nichole Parks, say their father died of metastatic melanoma because Watkins ignored the signs of skin cancer.
Parks died at 61 when the cancer had spread to his liver, two years after Watkins removed an “itchy” mole from Parks’ back at the athlete’s home, according to the original complaint filed in May. Parks’ children say Watkins should have removed the mole at the Hamakua Health Center dba Kohala Family Health Center on the Big Island, and biopsied it there, but that Watkins did not follow procedure because he would have had to pay for the test under their barter agreement.
The Parks say their 6-foot-1, 210-pound father “had a history of extremely good health,” but that Watkins should have been alert for signs of cancer because of the athlete’s family history. Both of William Parks’ parents died from cancer, and his brother had a form of bone cancer.
On the day Watkins removed the mole from her father’s back without consulting a dermatologist, Chiya said she asked whether it should be biopsied.
“In a separate conversation which took place a day or so afte [sic] the mole removal, Dr. Watkins was clearly angry with Chiya for raising the issue of having the mole biopsied,” according to the complaint. “In that conversation, Dr. Watkins harshly ordered Chiya to never question him in front of a patient again.”
The Parks say they have since learned that the Kohala Family Health Center did not have any record of their father as a patient, and that Watkins could only provide notes pertaining to the last two months of Parks life, including handwritten notes about some of his final visits and specialists’ reports.
“Dr. Watkins had kept absolutely no records of his care of Mr. Parks throughout the previous years, and he kept no records of his advice to his patient concerning Dr. Watkins’ examination and removal of the mole, or any record of any informed consent to the procedure, or any records of any informed consent to the decision to not have the tissue biopsied, or any records of any determination made about the possibility that Mr. Parks either had developed cancer, or was at high risk for cancer,” the complaint states.
In a meeting two weeks before Parks’ death, his son and wife met with Watkins and their questions caused the physician to “break down and cry,” according to the complaint. “Dr. Watkins then admitted to both Bo and Rebecca that, when he cut the mole from Mr. Parks’ back, he had suspicions that it was cancerous, but did not follow up to test, or treat it.”
The Parks say Watkins admitted that he didn’t get a biopsy to save money. He told the Parks that he believed he had killed his friend and now wanted to “kill myself,” according to the complaint.
One paragraph of the original lawsuit notes that the Parks initiated proceedings with a Medical Claims Conciliation Panel that concluded in June that Watkins had been “actionably negligent” in his care and treatment of Parks.
Watkins moved to strike mention of the panel from the complaint as immaterial, but U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said she would strike only mention of the panel’s findings and would not let the Parks include the decision as an exhibit.
“The very use of the word ‘conciliation’ in the term ‘Medical Claim Conciliation Panel’ makes it clear that the MCCP is a dispute-resolution mechanism,” Mollway wrote. “Just as confidentiality is thought to enhance the efficacy of voluntary mediation, the Hawaii Supreme Court concluded that the very nature of MCCP proceedings required confidentiality.”
But the Watkins can mention that the conciliation proceedings occurred since this fact could affect any award of costs, according to the Aug. 5 decision.
Watkins’ co-defendant, the Kohala Family Health Center, refused to participate in the hearing, citing its acquisition by Hamakua Health Center one year before the mole incident. At the time Parks was receiving services, Kohala was a federally supported health center not subject to state-law jurisdiction that can be sued only under the Federal Tort Claims Act, according to the complaint.
The Parks are represented by Jerry Hiatt with Hiatt & Hiatt of Honoka’a on the Big Island.