Neurosurgeon Leopoldo Luque, 39, appeared before Buenos Aires prosecutors to answer to claims that he and other caregivers had neglected Diego Maradona in his final days, precipitating his death.
Diego Maradona’s personal physician denied through his lawyer Monday any responsibility for the football icon’s death, in which he and six other health care workers are being investigated for manslaughter, and requested a new medical board be assigned to the case.
Neurosurgeon Leopoldo Luque, 39, appeared before Buenos Aires prosecutors to answer to claims that he and other caregivers had neglected Maradona in his final days, precipitating his death.
“Luque has nothing to feel guilty for,” the doctor’s defense attorney Julio Rivas said at the end of Monday’s hearing near Buenos Aires.
“What he said was simply that he was always concerned with Maradona’s health, and every time he was called for any issue, he went and helped him. He was his family doctor, but not in charge of his home care.”
Maradona, 60, was found dead in bed last November, two weeks after the surgery, in a rented house in an exclusive Buenos Aires neighborhood to where he was brought after being discharged from hospital.
He was found to have died of a heart attack.
“I see no responsibility either in Agustina or in Leo” for Maradona’s death, Rivas said of Luque and co-accused psychiatrist Agustina Cosachov, 36.
According to Luque’s lawyers, two private health care companies bear that responsibility.
But other members of the team have said the duo was in charge of the retired footballer’s care.
– ‘Agonizing’ end –
A panel of 20 medical experts convened by Argentina’s public prosecutor said last month that Maradona’s treatment was rife with “deficiencies and irregularities.”
But Luque’s lawyers took issue with the report Monday and insisted there were no clinical studies that indicated heart problems for Maradona before his death.
Four checkups between 2019 and 2020 that included cardiology testing were “perfect,” Rivas said, as Luque asked for a new medical review board for the case.
The 20-member panel concluded the footballer “would have had a better chance of survival” with adequate treatment in an appropriate medical facility.
The board found the team had provided inadequate care and abandoned the idolized player to his fate for a “prolonged, agonizing period.”
A judge will next decide whether to order a trial, in a process that could take years. The suspects risk between eight and 25 years in jail if found guilty.
An investigation was opened following a complaint filed by two of Maradona’s five children against Luque, whom they blame for their father’s deterioration after the operation.
Luque, who has described the sporting legend as a friend, arrived at the prosecutor’s office in San Isidro, Buenos Aires, in a dark suit and tie and dark glasses an hour before the hearing Monday.
His questioning closes a two-week process of interrogation. He and the other six have appeared one by one to defend themselves against the accusations.
– ‘I did my best’ –
Luque, 39, has repeatedly denied guilt and recently said, “I’m proud of what I did” to assist the patient, denying he had abandoned him.
“I did my best. I offered Diego everything I could: some things he accepted, others not,” he said in a recent interview.
The doctor said Maradona had been depressed in his final days.
“I know that the (coronavirus) quarantine hit him very hard,” Luque has said.
Maradona appeared in public on October 30 last year at an event to mark his 60th birthday, visibly weakened and appearing to be having difficulty speaking and walking.
Luque ordered him hospitalized, which is when the blood clot was discovered.
Discharged from hospital after surgery, Maradona was confined to home care, but some of his medical team have told prosecutors the house lacked medical equipment.
Last week, a lawyer for co-accused nurse Dahiana Madrid, 36, said the medical team leaders had “killed Diego.”
“In the end, there were many warning signs that Maradona was going to die, give or take a day. And none of the doctors did anything to prevent it,” attorney Rodolfo Baque said at the time.
The other four people under suspicion are nurse Ricardo Almiron, 37; nursing coordinator Mariano Perroni, 40; medical coordinator Nancy Forlini, 52; and psychologist Carlos Diaz, 29.
All have denied responsibility.
Maradona had battled cocaine and alcohol addictions for years.
The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star suffered from liver, kidney and cardiovascular disorders when he died.
Maradona became an idol to millions of Argentines after he inspired the South American country to only their second World Cup triumph in 1986.
His death shocked fans around the world, and tens of thousands queued to file past his coffin, draped in the Argentine flag, at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires amid three days of national mourning.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by our staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)