Jayanth Patel, the controversial Indian-origin surgeon, dubbed Dr. Death, has got only a seven-year jail term in Australia for all the dreadful charges against him.
The 60-year-old Patel was facing a maximum life sentence after a Supreme Court jury in Sydney found him guilty of criminal negligence at Queensland's Bundaberg Base Hospital.
AdvertisementThe charges stemmed from his tenure as director of surgery at the Bundaberg Base Hospital, in southeast Queensland, between 2003 and 2005. The trial centered around surgeries that left three of his patients dead and another without a healthy bowel, and the surgeon pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
But an official inquiry into Queensland state's health system linked him to numerous fatalities at Bundaberg hospital, a local politician said there were at least 87 deaths under Patel's watch.
The Supreme Court trial began in Brisbane in March 2010 and has become one of the longest Supreme Court criminal trials in Queensland's history.
While sentencing Patel, for the manslaughter of Mr Kemps, Mervyn Morris and James Phillips and the grievous bodily harm of Mr Vowles, Justice John Byrne said the sentence he imposed reflected the community's disdain for Patel's behaviour.
In summing up last Wednesday, Justice Byrne reminded the jury that Mr Martin neatly summarised the Crown's allegations when he said: "Over 19 to 20 months there had been poor decision-making, misdiagnosis, performing surgery on patients who could not withstand it, performing surgery at the wrong hospital and the removal of healthy organs".
Justice Byrne told Patel, "In view of the verdicts of the jury, there is no denying the gravity of your offending [and] your repeated serious disregard for the welfare of the four patients."
However, the sentencing took into account mitigating factors such as Patel's age and distance from his family.
"Three lives were lost and Mr Vowles will suffer for the rest of his life," Justice Byrne said.
He dismissed calls by Patel's defence team for a wholly suspended sentence. The crown had urged for Patel to be jailed for at least 10 years.
Justice Byrne was critical of Patel's decision to charge ahead with the fatal operations in spite of his shady history.
Prosecutor Ross Martin had earlier detailed Patel's long history of disciplinary action in the United States, dating back to 1982 and including restrictions on him performing major operations like the ones he carried out at Bundaberg Base Hospital.
Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the sentence handed down to Jayant Patel would not meet community expectations.
"Dr Patel could be out of jail in as little as three and a half years,'' he said in a statement.
"Just over a year in jail for each death Dr Patel caused is manifestly inadequate and the Attorney-General [Cameron Dick] must appeal."
Mr McArdle said the government should have made sentencing laws tougher.
Bundaberg Hospital Patients Support Group president Beryl Crosby said she was "fine" with the seven-year sentence.
"I have had contact from some of the patients straight away and they said they are happy with that too," she said.
"It was the guilty verdict we needed. The sentencing didn't bother us too much."
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