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Jury finds surgeon, MGH liable in 1960-61 treatments

A federal jury in Boston last week found Massachusetts General Hospital and a retired MGH neurosurgeon, Dr. William Sweet, liable for $8 million in damages to the families of two patients with terminal brain tumors who died 38 years ago and participated in treatments at the MIT nuclear research reactor toward the end of their illnesses.

The jury determined that MIT was not liable. MIT issued a statement saying, "The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is pleased that the jury upheld MIT's position that it acted appropriately." Said Boston attorney Owen Gallagher, who represented MIT: "I'm glad the jury recognized from the evidence that MIT entered into this with the best of intentions."

The jury found Dr. Sweet and MGH liable for $3 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Awarded $2.5 million was Evelyn Heinrich of Westwood, whose husband George died at the age of 35 in 1961. Awarded $5.5 million was the family of Henry Sinkiewicz, whose mother Eileen died in 1961.

Joseph L. Doherty Jr., the attorney for MGH and the 89-year-old Dr. Sweet, said," I think it's a surprise based upon the evidence. I think the amounts are excessive. It will be appealed."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 20, 1999.

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