An Indian Australian doctor has been found guilty of performing an illegal abortion but was cleared of a charge of manslaughter of a premature baby.
Dr. Suman Sood was charged with manslaughter in November 2005 for allegedly failing to follow the procedures that make abortion legal in the state of New South Wales (NSW).
Reports here said the decision was reached by a jury of three men and eight women Wednesday after about 16 hours of deliberation about a series of complex medical and legal questions. The doctor now faces a maximum 10-year jail term.
Sood, 56, is the first doctor in NSW since 1971 to be tried over an abortion case. She was charged with giving a 20-year-old woman, who was about 23 weeks pregnant, an abortion drug at her clinic in Fairfeld, southwest of Sydney, in May 2002.
The doctor then asked the patient to come back the next day. But the latter didn't make it, delivering a baby boy in a toilet. The baby survived for about four hours.
Under NSW laws, abortions are illegal unless a doctor forms the honest, genuine and reasonable belief the abortion is necessary to protect the woman from serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi argued that Sood had performed a dangerous and illegal act by administering the abortion drug, therefore being guilty of manslaughter.
But defence barrister Philip Boulten said that the patient could have had the miscarriage because her placenta - an ephemeral organ present only during gestation - was abnormal, or because she had a thyroid disease. Medical experts told the court both these conditions could induce labour.
On her part, Sood had told a Medical Board hearing that she had only given a painkiller to the patient and not an abortion drug.
Following the jury's decision, the Supreme Court was to decide later Wednesday whether Sood should be granted bail pending her sentence.