Patients lives 'prematurely ended', says investigator

By Greg Ansley

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission has been handed further serious allegations against doctors at state hospitals, including claims that patients' lives were "prematurely ended".

The most recent allegation involves a doctor who was allowed to continue practising on the condition he did not work in hospital intensive care wards despite complaints made by a colleague and a whistleblower.

It follows the scandal of Jayat Patel, a former hospital doctor known as "Dr Death" following revelations of gross incompetence that led to his conviction on three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm. Patel, who is serving seven year's jail after being extradited from the United States, is appealing his conviction to the High Court.

In May the CMC handed two interim reports on further allegations of medical misconduct against other doctors to the state's parliamentary crime and misconduct committee. Several weeks later the CMC appointed retired Queensland Appeals Court Justice Richard Chesterman to assess a new set of similar complaints laid by independent MP Peter Wellington.

The complaints included allegations of serious misconduct against four state hospitals and seven doctors, backed by statements and supporting documents from concerned doctors, nurses and patients and their relatives.

The allegations included medical incompetence, unapproved research on patients, illegal dispensing and over-prescribing of drugs, sexual misconduct, Medicare fraud, and corruption and concealment by management.

The latest allegations were revealed on ABC television by whistleblower Jo Barber, a former senior investigator with the former Medical Board of Queensland and the Ethical Standards Unit at Queensland Health.

Barber told the ABC's 7.30 Report that a number of deaths had been linked to a hospital doctor whose actions were "so dangerous he could have been charged with manslaughter or murder".

She said one elderly patient's life ended after a "brutally frank" bedside assessment of her condition.

The 83-year-old patient had been on life support for a lung condition.

A relative said the doctor had stood at the foot of her bed and told her: "'These are your options: we can either turn your respirator off, in which case you will die straight away. We can turn it back to room pressure, in which case you will go into a coma and then you will die. Or we can leave you as you are but your organs are breaking down and you've probably got about three or four days and I'll leave you with your family'. And we're there at the side of the bed. Mum's eyes were just telling the story. She was in absolute horror."

The doctor then walked away.

Barber told the ABC the family was unable to choose any of the options.

That night the doctor allegedly turned down her oxygen supply, and the woman died despite help later given by a nurse who found her in a distressed state and "gasping for breath".

Barber said a colleague had alerted the state's medical board to the case, but its members - two-thirds of them doctors - allowed the doctor to continue practising provided he did not work in intensive care.

- NZ Herald

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