Patel verdict “grossly inadequate”

Many including Queensland MP Rob Messenger, feel that the seven year sentence awarded to Dr. Jayant Patel by the Brisbane's Supreme Court yesterday is “grossly inadequate.” Patel was being tried for three cases of manslaughter and one case of grievous bodily injury during his tenure as Director of Surgery at Bundaberg Base hospital between 2003 and 2005.

On Tuesday the world heard Justice John Byrne when he said that Patel’s conduct was “thoroughly reprehensible, involving such grave moral guilt that you should be punished as a criminal.” He recounted the distress and pain that the patients and families underwent due Patel’s negligent conduct. He explained the mitigation of the sentence by the public humiliation that Patel was facing and that his term in the jail was thus being made harsh for him. He would be eligible for parole after serving three-and-a-half years of his sentence. Patel took his sentence calmly while his wife Kishoree wept quietly.

However many like Mr. Messenger maintain that what is being done is not enough. He said, “After speaking with the patients and considering it and the fact being that he might spend three-and-half-years in jail for taking three lives that he's been found guilty of and grievous bodily harm - I think that's grossly inadequate and it should've been above 10 years…By going over 10 years it would have meant that he was classified as a violent offender and he would then had to of served 80 per cent of his sentence….The sentence is a kick in the guts and a lot of people I've spoken to are very, very disappointed.”

Prosecutor Ross Martin SC recounted other cases of medical negligence but said that none were as bad as this. He said Patel should have been in for 10 years more on the basis of his decade long history of negligence rather than these four cases only.

Patel’s lawyer Michael Byrne QC said a four or five year sentence would have been sufficient and the sentence should be wholly suspended or suspended after just a short stay in prison. He explained that Patel has been in judicial custody all this while and the negative publicity has effectively made him lose not “just a career, but the publicity has sought to take away his reputation as a human being.”

There will of course be an appeal by Patel’s lawyers. Some of grounds for argument are expected to be the length of the trial and absence of jury during the legal argument. The case could now be dragged to the High Court and laws for medical negligence could be revised.

There have been concerns from Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association that the strict look at the conduct of foreign doctors after this incident may deter them from coming in. The chairman of a central Queensland doctors' association however has dismissed such fears. Dr Paul Neeskens, chairman of GP Links Wide Bay however said that “Patel first happened in 2005 and a lot of the processes in assessing the competency of overseas-trained doctors have already been changed… It's an important issue for regional Queensland communities, working on how they attract and keep talented and skilled doctors in their community.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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Comments

  1. ex-pat Taswegian ex-pat Taswegian Australia says:

    I agree this sentence was inadequate, but that is the flaw with so-called justice in this country. People are being killed on the roads in increasing numbers in horrific circumstances and the perpetrators are walking away with suspended sentences or community service (which we all know is a laugh!)
    But my main argument is why isn't the person who sent Patel off with a one-way ticket and a glowing reference being prosecuted as well? At the very least for aiding and abetting a criminal to evade justice. How much did it cost Australia to extradite this man from where he was hiding out? Or was he/she just another faceless bureaucrat? It's about time these bureaucrats were made to face the music for their nefarious activities!

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