SYDNEY – An Indian-born surgeon at the center of a long-running malpractice saga in Australia was cleared Wednesday in a retrial of the manslaughter of an elderly patient who died after he operated on him.
Jayant Patel was jailed for seven years in July 2010 after a jury found him guilty of criminal negligence resulting in the deaths of three patients.
But Australia’s High Court quashed the manslaughter convictions in August last year, saying there had been a miscarriage of justice and ordering retrials, and the surgeon was released on bail.
Patel reportedly wiped away tears as he was found not guilty in Brisbane’s Supreme Court on Wednesday in the first of the retrials, relating to the death of 75-year-old Mervyn Morris.
Prosecutors had alleged Patel, 62, was negligent in recommending and performing bowel surgery on Morris, who died three weeks after the operation at Queensland’s Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2003. The defense argued Patel’s decision to operate was reasonable on medical grounds and there was not enough evidence to prove he had caused Morris’ death.
In his closing address, defense barrister Ken Fleming told the jury Patel did not have the luxury of hindsight when he decided to operate, and he did so in the honest and reasonable belief it was necessary.