Aussie State: Doctor’s Punishment Not Tough Enough

Tue, 07/20/2010 - 7:15am

SYDNEY (AP) — The Queensland state Attorney General has appealed the seven-year prison sentence of an American surgeon convicted of killing three patients, arguing the punishment isn't tough enough.

Indian-born U.S. citizen Jayant Patel, 60, was convicted last month of three counts of manslaughter and one of causing grievous bodily harm while he was a surgeon at a state-run hospital in Bundaberg, a sugar industry town 230 miles north of Brisbane in Queensland.

He had faced a maximum of life in prison for the manslaughter of Mervyn John Morris, James Edward Phillips and Gerry Kemps, and the grievous bodily harm of Ian Rodney Vowles. Patel will be eligible for parole after 3½ years.

Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick filed an appeal against the sentence on Monday.

"The grounds of this appeal are that these sentences are inadequate in all the circumstances and fail to reflect the gravity of the offenses," he said in a statement.

Lawyers for Patel filed their own appeal last week against the conviction and sentence, which came more than 25 years after concerns were first raised in the U.S. about Patel's competency as a surgeon. He left Australia in 2005, just as questions started swirling about his record in Queensland.

He was arrested by the FBI at his home in Portland, Ore., in 2008 and extradited to Australia.

Patel was accused during the trial of misdiagnosing patients, using sloppy and antiquated techniques and being driven by a "toxic ego" to perform surgeries he'd been banned from undertaking in the U.S.

A government inquiry found that Patel may have contributed directly to 13 deaths at Bundaberg, though by the time the case got to trial, prosecutors had boiled it down to three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm.

Patel graduated from medical school in Jamnangar, India, in 1976 and went to New York state two years later.

In 1984, New York health officials fined Patel and placed him on probation for failing to examine patients before surgery. In Portland, he later worked at Kaiser Permanente Hospital, which banned him from liver and pancreatic surgeries in 1998 after reviewing dozens of complaints. The Oregon Board of Medical Examiners later cited him for negligence.


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