Updated: June 29, 2010 19:05 IST

'Dr. Death' found guilty of manslaughter in Australia

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File photo shows Dr. Jayant Patel, right, arriving at the Supreme Court with his lawyer, Michael Byrne, for the jury deliberations in Brisbane, Australia.
File photo shows Dr. Jayant Patel, right, arriving at the Supreme Court with his lawyer, Michael Byrne, for the jury deliberations in Brisbane, Australia.

Indian-origin surgeon Jayant Patel was on Tuesday convicted of manslaughter of three Australian patients and grievously harming another after a trial which ran for 14 weeks.

Patel, 60, now an American citizen, was sent to police custody till Thursday when his sentence will be pronounced after a 12-member jury found him guilty of all charges after 50 hours of deliberations.

Patel, who had been dubbed ‘Dr. Death’ by the Australian media, did not speak at the trial where he was held guilty and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The American Indian was found guilty on three counts of manslaughter committed during his tenure as Director of Surgery in Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland between 2003-2005.

The doctor was extradited from the United States to face the Supreme Court in Brisbane on conducting dangerous, unnecessary and inappropriate operation on some of his patients.

He was convicted by the jury for the manslaughter of James Phillips, 46, Gerry Kemps, 77, and Mervyn Morris, 75, who died following surgery performed by him.

He was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to Ian Vowles, whose healthy bowel he removed in October 2004.

Patel faced a 14-week-long trial involving cross examination of 76 witnesses on his oesophagectomies surgeries on two patients Kemps and Phillips, a major colon operation on Morris and an operation to remove the healthy bowel of Vowles.

The trial came almost after quarter of a century following questions were raised about his competency in carrying out surgeries. The jury heard that Patel had been banned by the U.S. health authorities for carrying out some medical procedures.

'Decisions not criminally negligent'

The prosecution alleged the operations on the three deceased men should not have been done at Bundaberg Hospital as the facility did not have the resources to deal with such major surgeries.

Meanwhile, Patel’s defence team had insisted that Patel was not guilty, saying that he always acted in the best interests of his patients.

Defence barrister Michael Byrne told the jury much of the evidence presented by the crown during the weeks long trial had been fuelled by “a great deal of second-guessing and use of hindsight“.

“With hindsight it may have been the wrong call (to operate on Kemps) but that does not make the decision criminally negligent,” Mr. Byrne said.

Mr. Byrne warned the jury against using the benefit of hindsight in making their judgment about whether or not Patel was criminally negligent in proceeding with the operations, ABC reported on Tuesday.

Patel arrived in Australia in early 2003 and began work as a surgeon at the hospital.

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