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'Dr Death' found guilty of manslaughter

world Updated: Jun 29, 2010 15:18 IST

An India-born surgeon dubbed "Dr Death" was found guilty on Tuesday of killing three Australian patients and permanently harming another, after a trial which heard evidence of botched and needless operations.

After about 50 hours of deliberations, a jury found Jayant Patel guilty of three counts of manslaughter committed during his time as director of surgery at Australia's Bundaberg Base Hospital between 2003 and 2005, reports said.

Patel, branded "Dr Death" by the media during initial investigations into his conduct at the hospital in the state of Queensland was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to another patient, Australian Associated Press reported.

The doctor, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges, looked stonily at the floor as the jury announced its verdict. He will face a sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Patel, who was extradited from the United States to face the Supreme Court in Brisbane, had conducted dangerous, unnecessary and inappropriate operations on some of his patients, the court heard during the marathon 14-week trial.

The prosecution argued that James Phillips, 46, Gerry Kemps, 77, and Mervyn Morris, 75, would not have died except for the surgeries Patel performed on them, while while Ian Vowles was left with permanent injuries after the US-trained surgeon removed his healthy bowel in October 2004.

Patel failed to disclose that he had been found grossly negligent in the United States prior to taking the job in Bundaberg, and had been banned from performing some surgeries without a second opinion, the jury heard.

He questioned his abilities after the third fatal surgery, according to the prosecution, who told the jury he was heard saying "Maybe I shouldn't be doing these operations."

Patel's lawyers had mounted the case that the surgeon was working to benefit his patients and had wanted to see them returned to good health. Every surgery had been done with the patient's consent, they said.