June 30, 2005

Australia’s ‘Dr Death’ had acceptable record-review

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Indian-born surgeon, dubbed "DrDeath" in Australia after being linked to the deaths of 87patients, had an acceptable medical record but stillcontributed to eight deaths, a review of the doctor's patientssaid.

Jayant Patel, who was banned from surgery in two U.S.states, left Australia in March after he was linked to the 87deaths at Bundaberg Hospital in Queensland state in 2003-04,when he was head of surgery at the hospital.

An official inquiry into the deaths has issued an interimreport recommending Patel face murder, negligence and fraudcharges. The inquiry is continuing and Patel, a U.S. citizen,is believed to be living in Portland, Oregon.

A separate government-ordered review of 221 of Patel'spatients found he had an acceptable medical track record, buthe "exhibited an unacceptable level of care" which contributedto eight patient deaths and may have led to another eight.

"In the comfortable majority of cases examined, Dr Patel'soutcomes were acceptable," said the review, which was receivedby Reuters on Thursday.

"In some instances, he retrieved patients from dangeroussituations caused by other practitioners prior to hisinvolvement in the patient's management," it said.

The review found Patel "lacked many of the attributes of acompetent surgeon" but it was also critical of the Bundaberghospital, saying it lacked many normal safety, quality andcomplaints systems common with other hospitals.

The review has been given to the official inquiry into theBundaberg hospital deaths.