Freshman's Family Will Sue UHS for Alleged Malpractice

The family of a Radcliffe freshman will file a malpractice suit within the month charging the University Health Services (UHS) and one of its doctors with failing to detect the student's appendicitis when she was taken to the UHS emergency room last December 17.

The student, Mary E. Munch '80, underwent emergency surgery for a burst appendix and peritonitis six days later at a hospital near her home in Denver. The Director of UHS yesterday disclaimed malpractice on its part.

The parents' law suit will also claim that subsequent serious complications resulted from UHS negligence, Christopher H. Munch, the student's father, said yesterday.

Munch, associate dean of the University of Denver Law School, alleges that when his daughter returned to the UHS February 27 the doctor who treated her then did not correctly diagnose her ulcerated colitis and refused to admit her to Stillman infirmary at UHS.

The next day private physicians hospitalized her at Massachusetts General Hospital for one week.


Dr. Warren E. C. Wacker, director of UHS, said yesterday that Munch's statements are "not inconsistent" with what he knows of the case from UHS records and the doctors involved, but added, "I feel very comfortable about our (legal) position."

Wacker did say that Munch was asked to wait for a surgeon to examine her during the February 27 UHS visit, but that she instead left after the first doctor examined her.

Munch said Tuesday that she left because of the pain she was experiencing and the doctor's alleged refusal to admit her to the infirmary.


Munch alleges that on both occasions the doctors were "very callous and not sympathetic at all." Other students with Munch reportedly agreed with this assessment.

In a January letter to Alberta Arthurs, acting dean of freshmen, the Munch family, and Wacker, Joseph D. Blair '74, senior advisor to freshmen, concluded that the doctor on duty December 17 was "remiss in his duties" and had "made a hasty diagnosis of her illness."

Blair based his criticism on reports on the incident from Munch's proctor, several students who accompanied her to the UHS emergency room, and the police officers who drove her there.

Dr. Wacker said his confidence in UHS's legal position stems from the fact that in its early stages, appendicitis is very difficult to differentiate from other less serious intestinal ailments. He said that therefore the doctor was not negligent in diagnosing the appendicitis as gastroentritis, or common stomach flu.

An independent physician familiar with such cases agreed yesterday that in its early stages, appendicitis is sometimes hard to diagnose because the pain is not yet localized in the lower abdomen.

Doctors Not Named