Doctor cleared in death of attorney

October 9, 2013 10:20:16 AM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


A Columbus doctor has been found not guilty in connection with the death of a local lawyer. 


Dr. Jerry Stennett was accused of medical malpractice in the events leading up to the death of Hunter Gholson. 


The estate of Hunter Gholson, represented by Gholson's son Webb Gholson and the deceased's former law partners, DeWitt Hicks and Nelson Smith, alleged Stennett misdiagnosed a boil on Gholson's left buttock that ultimately lead to complications that caused his death. 


Stennett first saw Hunter Gholson on July 17, 2008, when the lawyer approached the general surgeon to treat the sore. Gholson had been treated previously by local dermatologist Dr. Robert Myers for a boil that was approximately the size of the dime. When Gholson saw Stennett two days later, the plaintiffs said Gholson's sore had doubled in size. Gholson was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle and treated with antibiotics. 


During closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, Hicks told jurors that Stennett misdiagnosed Gholson and said the misdiagnosis was to blame for Gholson's death. 


"If you have the wrong diagnosis, you have the wrong treatment," Hicks said. When Gholson's wound did not heal, Stennett operated on the wound. Hicks alleged that the misdiagnosis and subsequent operation allowed bacteria and toxins to enter Gholson's bloodstream. 


Hicks said Stennett should have gotten a second opinion before he operated on Gholson, saying, "Dr. Stennett did not know what was wrong with Hunter Gholson." 


Hicks described Gholson as a 75-year old man who, despite a bout with cancer and a knee replacement, was considered "healthy." He asked jurors to consider awarding the Gholson estate more than $200,000 in lost wages, saying Gholson planned to work until he died and would "die with his boots on." Hicks also asked the jury to award additional money for pain and suffering to the Gholson family. 


Stennett's attorneys argued that Stennett administered "conservative treatment" to Gholson and first treated him with antibiotics and fluids before he operated. Stennett's attorneys said the operation was inevitable, telling jurors Gholson had a "rapidly developing life-threatening infection." 


Long-time Columbus doctor Dr. Jack Reed testified earlier in the week that the surgery was "reasonable." Dr. Bethany Hairston also testified that the wound was a "culture proven staph infection" and said the wound appeared to be better, not worse after surgery with decreased redness. 


After 45 minutes in deliberation, the jury ruled in favor of Dr. Stennett, finding him not guilty.

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.