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Jayant Patel — the full story

Seven years after his appointment as Director of Surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital, six years after nurse Toni Hoffman warned of a mounting toll of patient deaths, five years after he escaped from Australia to hide in Oregon, and two years after his extradition from the USA…

Jayant PatelJayant Mukundray Patel, medical miscreant sans pareil, has at last been found guilty of serious crime. And in the Brisbane Supreme Court on July 1st 2010 he received his penalty. For the manslaughter of Mervyn John Morris, James Edward Phillips, and Geradus Wilhelmus Gosewinus Kemps, and for causing grievous bodily harm to Ian Rodney Vowles, Justice John Byrne sentenced him to seven years in jail.

Addressing Patel, Justice Byrne said that “In view of the verdicts of the jury, there is no denying the gravity of your offence and your repeated serious disregard for the welfare of the four patients.” The judge added that Patel’s fatal operations “might easily have been avoided. Had you sought a second opinion on whether to proceed, the indications are that another surgeon would have advised against them all.”

But Justice Byrne was much too kind. Patel’s psychopathic eagerness to wield the knife had been known well before he arrived in Australia. And a second opinion was something he never required. At the Kaiser Permanente Hospital, in Oregon, where after several years of malpractice his surgical cases were reviewed (three had died, while a fourth lost gastrointestinal function after Patel performed a colostomy backward) “Medical staff alleged that he would often turn up, even on his days off, and perform surgery on patients that were not even his responsibility. In some cases this surgery was not even required, and caused serious injuries or death to the patient.”

For his depredations in Brisbane the prosecution asked a minimum of ten years. Given that the death toll for which Patel appears responsible may have been between 80 and 90 men and women (in the course of two years’ surgical mayhem) many think this was too short. And the prospect of his now being released on parole after only 3½ years is for some surviving victims downright disturbing.

But Australians are a generous and forgiving people. Mrs Judy Kemps, who lost her husband Geradus Kemps, said the main priority was a conviction. “That guilty verdict is what I really wanted. The jury did a good thorough job, sitting there all those weeks listening to the case.” According to a report in the Brisbane Times Mrs Kemps went on to add that “even if Patel was released after three and a half years she would not be concerned.” Anyway, the whole grisly story of Patel’s career as a medical mutilator is here: Doctor Death in Bundaberg.

It is a story, moreover, that reaches far beyond his case and his crimes. First it entails the administrative competence and probity of the government department called somewhat ironically Queensland Health. The officers of this agency were responsible for hiring Jayant Patel. They were also responsible for the general oversight of hospital operations and for seeing that all was well among both staff and patients.

This they signally failed to do. Instead, they systematically obstructed investigations into criminal activity within their jurisdiction, and blatantly intervened to assist Patel escape justice, providing him with a free flight back to America.

Three representative members of the administrative bureaucracy at Bundaberg Base Hospital appeared as witnesses before an inquiry in 2005 — The Director of Services, the District Health Manager, and a third responsible for the nursing staff. Samples of their testimony are presented at the conclusion of Doctor Death in Bundaberg as Appendices A, B, and C.

Reader’s opinions will no doubt be varied and various. My own view is that it would be difficult to find a lower caliber of personnel: intellectually limited, with unconvincing credentials, devoid of any sense of responsibility, and morally impaired. Devotees of nationalized medicine with its armies of nondescript officials should perhaps be careful what they wish for. You wouldn’t trust a sick dog with Appendices A, B, and C. Ultimately, alas, and regardless of rogue medicos like Jayant Patel, bureaucratic personnel like these always ruin such schemes. Read the full story here: Doctor Death in Bundaberg.

Posted in For the Record, People.

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