Jury finds doctor negligent in death of basketball player

Parents awarded $2.4 million

By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / March 27, 2010

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A Suffolk County jury found a Randolph doctor was negligent in the death of a college basketball player and awarded more than $2 million to the parents of Antwoine Key, who died in 2005 during a game in Worcester, attorneys said yesterday.

Dr. Dorina R. Abdulah had examined Key, a 22 year-old student at Eastern Connecticut State University, in 2001 in order to decide whether he was medically eligible to play college sports, said the plaintiff’s lawyers, Lisa Arrowood and Jeff Catalano of Boston.

After his death, an autopsy found Key had died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that often affects athletes.

During the exam at Bowdoin Street Health Center in Dorchester, Abdulah found a “slight systolic murmur’’ in his heart but signed a clearance form stating that Key was in “excellent health’’ and had no physical restrictions, Catalano said. The attorneys contend Abdulah did not perform a thorough enough examination. Key had gone to high school in West Roxbury.

“The bottom line is, she couldn’t give those opinions without further examination,’’ Arrowood said. “Without doing a thorough workup, she couldn’t give an accurate opinion.’’

Arrowood said although Abdulah ordered an electrocardiogram, a test that would have revealed Key’s condition, it was never carried out. Furthermore, besides the form given to college athletic officials, no record was made of Key’s visit to Abdulah, Arrowood said.

“When he came back to the center, there was no record of his coming before. Nobody was following up on this,’’ Arrowood said. “This doctor had a golden opportunity to diagnose this murmur that ended up killing him.’’

On Jan. 20, 2005, at a game against Worcester State College, Key, playing for Eastern Connecticut State, collapsed during the first quarter. He was taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead.

Abdulah’s attorney, Philip E. Murray Jr. of Woburn, said Abdulah had ordered an electrocardiogram to be performed at a hospital a few weeks after her initial examination, but Key never showed up.

“This is a very sad case,’’ Murray said. “But Dr. Abdulah ordered the test.’’

Murray said Key was cleared to play for the next 3 1/2 years and had six different physicals by five different providers, all of whom had Abdulah’s report of Key’s heart murmur.

“That report was in the hands of all physicians that cleared him to play basketball,’’ Murray said. “This is a heck of a burden to put on Dr. Abdulah.’’

The jury awarded Key’s parents, Tony and Angela Key of Brockton, $600,000 each in compensation for their loss, and $400,000 for the pain and suffering their son endured, totaling $1.6 million. The award will reach nearly $2.4 million after interest is taken into account, Arrowood said.

Catalano said the parents expressed relief at the decision. “They finally feel like justice has been done,’’ he said.