Doc Blamed for Bernie Mac's Death

Wife files suit claiming funnyman would be alive today if dermatologist diagnosed pneumonia in time

By Josh Grossberg Aug 06, 2010 4:30 PMTags
Bernie Mac, Rhonda Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Bernie Mac didn't have to die—if only his dermatologist had done something about it.

That's the feeling of the late comedian's widow, Rhonda McCullough, who has filed a wrongful death suit against Mac's longtime doctor, accusing him of negligence in failing to properly treat the star in the weeks before he died.

The complaint, filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, claims Rene M. Earles "failed to recognize and act upon abnormal vital signs and signs of respiratory failure" during a July 17, 2007, visit the funnyman paid to the physician's office.

McCullough alleges in her court docs that instead of diagnosing pneumonia, calling 911 and sending Mac to the hospital via ambulance, Earles negligently kept Mac at the clinic for nine more hours, setting off a chain reaction of complications culminating in the star's death from pneumonia on Aug. 9, 2008.

Earles, who considered Mac a friend and had for 20 years treated a lesional skin condition on his head, face and neck caused by sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, told the Chicago Sun-Times he thought the Emmy-nominated actor may have had an allergic reaction to an injection another doctor had given him.

In any case, the dermatologist said that after stabilizing Mac with oxygen and letting him sleep, he sent Mac to Northwestern Hospital, where he picked up another bug.

"He didn't die the next day, he didn't die in two days. He died in two weeks and he got over his original strain of pneumonia. He got another strain of pneumonia while he was in the hospital," Earles told the paper, noting he was heartsick over his pal's death.

The suit seeks at least $50,000 in damages.