Northwestern University Doctor destroyed records after player's death
Tuesday, June 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
CHICAGO (AP) -- A Northwestern University doctor destroyed records of a routine physical exam of a football player who died three weeks later during practice, the school said Tuesday.
The doctor, Mark Gardner, also indicated he knew Rashidi Wheeler had been taking dietary supplements, according to a deposition taken in a lawsuit Wheeler's family filed against Northwestern, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.
School lawyers contend ephedra-containing supplements caused the player's death in 2001.
"The destruction of medical records obviously is against university policy, and that destruction was done without anyone at the university, other than Dr. Gardner of course, having any prior knowledge of it," university spokesman Alan Cubbage said.
Cubbage said Northwestern filed court documents as early as July 2002 indicating that records of the physical no longer existed.
James Montgomery, an attorney for Wheeler's mother, told the Tribune that Northwestern knew the records had been destroyed but failed to inform his client.
Gardner's attorney, Mark Donohue, declined to discuss the case.
"Dr. Gardner will be giving his deposition at some point in the litigation and will state his position," Donohue said.
Gardner, the former director of student health services at Northwestern, took a leave of absence four days after Wheeler's death and resigned last year.
Wheeler's parents sued Northwestern, claiming the university did not give their son proper medical attention.
Wheeler collapsed during conditioning drills on Aug. 3, 2001. Bronchial asthma was listed as the cause of death, although toxicology reports showed he had ephedrine in his system.
Ephedrine is the active compound in ephedra, a diet supplement blamed for nearly 120 deaths. It also is suspected in the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.
Gardner performed a physical on Wheeler on July 12, 2001, Cubbage said. The university tried to find out what happened to the records of that physical, but Gardner's attorney and his doctor prevented the school from speaking with him until April 2002, he said.