Teen with bullet in head sues surgeon that tried to remove it

Marilyn Tennissen Jul. 21, 2008, 9:40am

Joshua Bush

The strange case of Joshua Bush, the Groves teen with a bullet lodged in his forehead, took another odd twist when Bush filed a lawsuit accusing the doctor who tried to remove the projectile of medical battery.

Port Arthur police wanted the bullet because they believe it links the 19-year-old to a robbery and shootout with the owner of a used car lot.

A Beaumont doctor attempted to remove the bullet in 2006, but Bush claims he never consented to the procedure. He is accusing the physician of medical battery in a civil lawsuit filed July 18 in Jefferson County District Court.

The case attracted international news coverage two years ago as experts debated issues of civil rights, medical ethics and criminal justice.

On Oct. 29, 2006, Bush was an inmate in the Jefferson County Jail on unrelated charges when he was taken by the Port Arthur Police Department to Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth in Beaumont.

PAPD had a search warrant authorizing Dr. David Parkus to remove the bullet.

"Mr. Bush did not consent to undergo this surgical procedure," the original complaint states. "In fact, Mr. Bush expressly told the physician, defendant Dr. David Parkus, to refrain from touching him and verbally prohibited Dr. Parkus from performing the surgery. On Oct. 29, 2006, and without Mr. Bush's consent, Dr. Parkus performed an invasive surgical procedure on Mr. Bush in an attempt to remove the bullet."

Bush alleges Dr. Parkus made "offensive physical contact" when he cut into his forehead with a scalpel.

According to the suit, Bush was strapped to a gurney during the procedure.

The procedure resulted in injury and mental anguish, the suit states.

The "invasive surgical procedure on plaintiff's person was intentional, reckless, extreme and outrageous," Bush alleges, and caused "severe emotional distress, which cannot be remedied by any other cause of action."

The suit also charges Christus with vicarious liability for allowing Dr. Parkus to perform the procedure.

Represented by Danny R. Scott Jr. of Beaumont, Bush is seeking actual damages, exemplary damages, interest, court costs and other relief.

A call by the Southeast Texas Record to Scott has not been returned.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Donald Floyd.

Case background

The case began when Olive Used Cars on Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur was burglarized in July 2006. Authorities allege that Bush, then 17, took part in the burglary and then got into a gunfight with Allen Olive, owner of the car lot.

Olive told police one of the burglars shot at him and missed, and Olive then returned fire. It is a bullet from Olive's gun that authorities believe is lodged in Bush's forehead, about 3 inches above his left eye.

Bush was later taken into police custody on charges unrelated to the car lot shooting. He admitted to involvement in the car lot burglary but denied knowledge of the shooting and first said the swelling on his forehead was from a basketball injury. He later told authorities that he was accidentally shot while sleeping on a couch at a friend's house.

In December 2006, District Judge Layne Walker issued a search warrant authorizing the surgical removal of the bullet and that's when Bush saw Dr. Parkus.

But the trauma surgeon, attempting the procedure in the emergency room, discovered that bone had begun to grow around the bullet and removal would require an operating room and additional equipment.

A second search warrant sent Bush to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, but the surgery was not performed. It was reported that the UTMB surgeon refused to do the operation because of Bush's objections.

The situation caught the attention of media around the country and raised debates about Fourth Amendment protection from illegal search and seizure, other civil rights and medical ethics.

In January 2007, Bush said he would allow the bullet to be removed under specific circumstances: he would be allowed to choose the surgeon, his family would be allowed to watch and the surgery would be videotaped and photographed.

However both UTMB and Christus said they would not participate in further surgeries and authorities eventually dropped their efforts to have the bullet removed, pursuing the case against Bush without it.

Finally in May 2008, Bush, now 19, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and deadly conduct just moments before a jury trial was to begin.

Sentencing was set for June 13, but at the last minute Bush withdrew his plea, citing a clerical error caused him to misunderstand the penalty.

Both charges against Bush are first degree felonies, but indictment called the charges a second degree felony which carries a lesser penalty. A first degree felony carries a minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 99 years or life in prison. Bush thought he had agreed to a 10-year maximum sentence.

A new criminal trial date has been set for Aug. 11.

Civil Trial Case No. E182-086

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