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03/06/2013

News / Former Indian surgeon charged with manslaughter disagrees with death certificate’s cause of death

Former Indian surgeon Jayant Patel, who stands accused of manslaughter for the death of an elderly patient in 2003, told the Supreme Court of Queensland that he had no role in writing his patient’s death certificate, and that he disagreed with the stated cause of death.

The patient, 75-year old Mervyn Morris, passed away three weeks after receiving major bowel surgery from Patel at the Bundaberg Base Hospital in the Australian state of Queensland, ABC News (Australia) reports.

Morris’ death certificate was written by Dr. Emma Igris, Patel’s junior, and stated that the cause of death were problems developed after the operation, including cirrhosis and fluid overload leading to respiratory failure.

Patel stated that he did not take part in writing the death certificate, and that he does not agree with the stated cause of death. Instead, Patel argues that the patient died from aspiration in a procedure in which he did not participate. A breathing tube for artificial ventilation was inserted into Morris’ throat, but he vomited during the process, causing the contents of his stomach to aspirate into his lungs, Patel noted.

But Crown Prosecutor Peter Davis alleges that Patel invented this story retroactively in order to justify his malpractice that ultimately led to the patient’s death.

During the cross-examination, Davis asked Patel why he made no note of aspiration being the cause of death back in 2003. Patel answered by saying that “a lot of things are not documented in the charts.”

While Patel acknowledged that Morris had complications following his surgery, he disagreed with the prosecution’s claim that Morris’ death was directly caused by the operations.

Davis noted that Morris’ bleeding from the bowel had been brought about by previous radiotherapy for prostate cancer, and that the treatment should have been more conservative. He also accused Patel of failing to diagnose a partial bowel blockage that may have exacerbated his condition, a charge Patel also denied.

Patel asserted that most of his patient’s problems were caused by his low albumen, which is essential for circulation.

In 2003, US-educated surgeon Jayant Patel became the Director of Surgery at the Bundaberg Base Hospital despite previous allegations of serious malpractice during his employment at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

In the mid-2000s, the surgeon was accused of neglecting hygienic and procedural norms, and of modifying medical records to hide his incompetence. This malpractice was alleged to have resulted in the deaths of 87 patients at the hospital. Patel was eventually charged with three counts of manslaughter, five counts of causing grievous bodily harm, four counts of negligent acts and eight counts of fraud. He was extradited back to Australia in 2008, and convicted to seven years in prison on three counts of manslaughter and one count of causing grievous bodily harm in 2010.

However, last August the High Court of Australia upheld Patel’s appeal, quashed the 2010 conviction and ordered a retrial, arguing that the evidence presented in the previous trial was “highly emotive and prejudicial.”


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