India-born US surgeon Jayant Patel, charged with multiple manslaughter in the deaths of several patients, could thwart his extradition from the United States to Australia for years if he mounts a legal battle in the American courts.
The legal fight could take three years or longer, extending the agony suffered by the doctor's alleged victims.
But the process could also be a quick one, according to Courier Mail on Sunday.
US government sources said Australian authorities might be attempting to negotiate a self-surrender deal with Patel.
If he agrees to a surrender deal, waiving extradition proceedings, and freely leaves his home in Portland, Patel could be in Australia within weeks.
"An individual can waive extradition and it could be very short or they can litigate it and appeal it and it can take years," the US government prosecutor likely to handle the Patel case, Oregon-based US assistant attorney Barry Sheldahl, said, adding "It can be very quick and it can be very long, depending on the case."
Australian authorities want Patel to face charges in Queensland relating to 17 deaths that occurred during his two years as director of surgery at Bundaberg Hospital.
Sheldahl pointed to the case of an arson suspect as an example of how long extraditions can take.
"We have been attempting to extradite an individual from Canada now and it's been three years and counting," Sheldahl said. "We still haven't got the person."
Australia and the US have an extradition treaty.