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Dr death denies charges

India-born surgeon Jayant Patel, wanted for alleged botched surgeries in Australia, has denied the charges against him and will seek bail in a US court.
PTI | By Meenakshi Ganjoo and Natasha Chaku, Sv/melbourne
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 01:59 PM IST

India-born surgeon Jayant Patel, wanted for alleged botched surgeries leading to 17 deaths in Australia, has denied the charges against him and will seek bail in a US court.

Fiftyseven-year-old Patel, who faces charges of manslaughter and negligence, was arrested by the FBI on a request by the Australian government from his home in the US state of Oregon on Monday and is set to face an extradition hearing on April 10.

He will seek bail when he reappears in a court on Thursday. Patel is expected to fight extradition as he was not sure of getting a fair trial in Australia.

During a hearing in Portland court on Tuesday, his federal public defender Susan Russell said her client "denies the allegations (coming) out of Australia."

Patel, dubbed as 'Dr Death' by the media in Australia, appeared with the court-appointed attorney and told the judge that he could "most likely not" afford to hire a lawyer.

Patel "schemed to hide his history of professional misconduct from officials at an Australian hospital," the US attorney's office said in a memo filed with the court.

The government of Australia is seeking extradition of Patel to face 16 charges, including three of manslaughter in connection with three deaths arising from botched surgeries and falsifying records during his two-year tenure at a rural public hospital in the state of Queensland.

He faces three life sentences if convicted on the charges, which also include allegations of causing grievous bodily harm, negligence and fraud.

Prior to moving to Australia, Patel worked at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, where he was disciplined by the Oregon State Board of Medical Examiners for "gross or repeated acts of negligence." According to board records, Patel was also found to have engaged in "unprofessional or dishonourable conduct," while working at the hospital from 1989 to 2001.

According to the complaint filed in US court, he removed a healthy gland in one patient, missing the cancerous mass. In another case, he accidentally tore a patient's esophagus.

A 60-page "extradition complaint" was filed in the US District Court to support the request for Patel's extradition to Queensland. In the documents, US prosecutors detailed the charges against Patel and the findings of the Australian investigation into his alleged malpractice.

Patel (57), who hails from Jamnagar, Gujarat, had moved to the US in 1977 and was banned from surgery in the US states of New York and Oregon before he arrived in Australia.

As Patel spent the first night in jail, one of his friends has been quoted as saying that he was in "good spirits", because finally now "he can have his day in court."

"When FBI officials knocked the door, he did not resist or argue, he stayed calm and he went with them, and you could say he was relieved in a way, because all the waiting for these two years for that knock to come, it takes its toll," family friend Vijay Mehta, a Texas-based surgeon, said.

The families of the Indian medic's former patients expressed relief at his arrest.

Judy Kemps, whose late husband was one of Patel's alleged victims at Bundaberg Base hospital, was quoted as saying: "I am on such a high, the burden has just fallen off, the pressure is off."

Toni Hoffman, the nurse who first brought Patel's conduct to public attention, said, however, it was too early for celebrations.

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