Former colleague justifies Patel's decision to preform surgery on a 75-year-old patient

Jayant Patel

Indian-origin surgeon Jayant Patel's decision to preform surgery on a 75-year-old patient was 'justified', a specialist physician has informed an Australian court. During Patel's manslaughter trial, the Brisbane Supreme Court was told that statistically for a patient that he operated had "one in 10" chance of dying after major surgery that removed a part of his bowel, media reports said today.

Patel, the former Bundaberg Base Hospital director of surgery, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mervyn Morris, who died three weeks later at the hospital in 2003.

The evidences were given by 62-year-old Patel's former Bundaberg colleague Dawid Smalberger who said the death rate for the type of operation performed on a man like Morris was one in 10 and that he believed the operation was justified despite the crown's assertion that other health factors made it too risky.

He told the jury he was unsure how much the "significant" weight loss experienced by the patient Mervyn Morris would have increased the risk of him dying as a result of the surgery on May 23, 2003.However, Smalberger agreed the weight loss reported by Morris may have increased that risk.

He said Morris may have had radiation proctitis - inflammation caused by radiotherapy as well as diverticulitis - inflammation of sacs that form in the colon - which caused two different types of rectal bleeding as well as "confusion" for treating doctors. Smalberger further told the jury it was his opinion that Patel had "conservatively" treated Morris' ongoing "per rectum" bleeding by using a "watch and wait" approach to try and explain ongoing blood loss.

He explained how Morris "aspirated" fluid into his lungs while doctors were trying to intubate him and said the patient's airways may have been permanently weakened as a result.

He said it was his belief Morris died from a bacterial infection that started in his abdominal cavity, spread into his blood and caused septicaemia and organ failure.

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