|Dr. Jayant Patel’s trial came more than 25 years after questions were first raised about his competency.|
US doctor guilty of killing 3 patients in Australia
Was barred from some surgeries in America
SYDNEY — An American doctor accused of botching a string of operations while he was the chief surgeon at an Australian hospital was found guilty yesterday of killing three of his patients and grievously harming another.
Jayant Patel, 60, was ordered into police custody until tomorrow’s sentencing after a jury returned guilty verdicts on all charges against him.
Patel had pleaded innocent to three counts of manslaughter and one count of causing grievous bodily harm to four patients he treated while working as director of surgery between 2003 and 2005 at a public hospital in Queensland state.
He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The trial came more than 25 years after questions were first raised about Patel’s competency and marked a milestone for many former patients and their families who have waited years to face the man they accuse of irreparably damaging their lives.
Patel did not visibly react when the guilty verdict was read or when he was led away to jail. His wife, Kishoree Patel, left the courthouse in tears without speaking to reporters.
At the trial, it was revealed that Patel had been banned by US authorities from carrying out some of the procedures he undertook when he later moved to Australia. He had failed to inform his new employers about the restrictions.
Prosecutor Ross Martin described Patel as a “bad surgeon motivated by ego’’ who tried to restore his reputation by carrying out surgery he was not competent to perform.
Patel did not speak at the trial, but his defense lawyer said that he was a hardworking doctor devoted to his patients and that all the patients named in the case had consented to the surgeries and knew the risks.
Patel, born in India, was found guilty of the manslaughter of patients Mervyn John Morris, James Edward Phillips, and Gerry Kemps, and the grievous bodily harm of Ian Rodney Vowles.
Judy Kemps, Gerry Kemps’s widow, said she was relieved that the long ordeal had ended with justice. “It’s been a long five years but it’s all over,’’ she said. “I’m just so happy. I’m free. It’s closure all right.’’
Patel graduated from medical school in Jamnangar, India, in 1976 and entered a residency program in New York state two years later.
Patel’s competency was first questioned in the early 1980s, when he practiced in the United States.
In 1984, New York health officials fined Patel and placed him on probation for three years for failing to examine patients before surgery.
Patel left Australia in 2005, just as questions began to be were raised about his record.
At the trial, Martin said Patel was driven by ambition and a “toxic ego’’ in a pattern of negligence, including performing surgeries that US officials had banned him from undertaking, misdiagnosing patients, and employing sloppy surgical techniques.