Anatomy of a Self-inflicted Tragedy: Healthcare at it’s Worst

“. . . some staff referred to Patel as “Doctor E. coli” because so many patients developed infections related to his sloppy work.”

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Nearly as soon as Jayant Patel became licensed as a physician, his colleagues noticed that his medical skills were seriously suspect. The fellow stumbled through even simple medical procedures like an amateur.

Dr Jayant Patel and wife walking to court in Australia

Dr Jayant Patel and wife walking to court in Australia

Many wondered aloud how he could have possibly made it through medical school, let alone surgical residency. The rumors spread from operating rooms to hospital hallways and beyond – the man was grossly incompetent and surgically dangerous. A few of his colleagues filed reports of their worries, but in the Twilight Zone of healthcare, most people do nothing at all about bad seeds in their midst – regardless of how many patients they kill – and Patel’s case was no exception. The man was an Indian-born Third World Assassin, and doctors and nurses around him simply laughed at his bumblings . . . for years.

Because in the corridors of medicine – that’s what most of us do. And as a 30-year Paramedic, I can promise you my colleagues in EMS are as guilty of lab coat silence as anybody else in healthcare.

Eventually though, Patel’s reputation as a surgical hack ignited a reluctant investigation by Oregon state medical authorities, back in the year 2000, which resulted in Patel’s medical license to be “restricted.” Mind you, they didn’t revoke his license (like authorities would a bus driver or pretty much any other professional who injured and killed people). That was unthinkable by a medical board which is, after all, made up of – now hold your ponies on this concept – doctors. They simply told him there were certain medical procedures he wouldn’t be allowed to do in their state.  So Patel did what MDs have learned to do all over the U.S. for decades: he pulled a ‘Bonnie & Clyde’.  He crossed state lines, moved to New York and started over.

How cool is that?

Im a surgeon art

However, Patel would learn that one can run from authority – but not from his own incompetence. And it wasn’t long before medical authorities in his brand new state noticed that – surprise, surprise – this miscreant had no business whatsoever practicing medicine. They demanded that he turn in his medical license. But like pretty much every other state board, they did nothing about the little fact that he was maiming and killing people. The very last thing they wanted to do was warn the public of the monster in their midst. After all, it wasn’t like he was a mere mortal. The man happened to be – hold your ponies again – a doctor. So he was simply labeled “Professionally Incompetent” and that was it.

Time to pull another Bonnie & Clyde.

So Patel left the United States to start all over in Australia – a 10,000 mile dash to a fresh clean start and away from those pesky Americans who had the nerve to get frisky when he killed people. He had no problem at all getting hired by Queensland Health, of course. One of the advantages of being a physician is that people are so impressed with the MD after your name that they stop thinking logically: like doing a serious background check. In Australia healthcare is managed by each state, which in this case is Queensland. So this stumbling, bumbling fool was hired as the surgical director at Bundaberg Base Hospital.

Oh, there’s more.

Within 60 days, Nurse Toni Hoffman voiced concern that the new doctor repeatedly exhibited sloppy surgical habits. But like nurses across America, Ms. Hoffman in Australia was ignored too. So it took 2 years before the government-run hospital began an investigation after her complaints reached the Queensland Parliament in 2005.

Raise your hand if you have ever heard of a murderous American MD’s case every reaching the U.S. Congress. We’ll hold.

Before the investigation was completed, Patel fled Australia and headed back to the U.S., where of course he was welcome. The media in Australia discovered that Patel had been banned from performing certain types of surgery in America due to negligence. It took about a year, but the inquiry resulted in warrants issued for Patel’s arrest. He was charged with 16 felonies, including Manslaughter, Grievous Bodily Harm, and Fraud. Law enforcement caught up with Patel in 2008 in the U.S., and the FBI arrested him. He was extradited to Australia to face criminal charges. In 2009, he was arraigned on 13 charges, including 3 charges of killing patients.

In November 2013, Patel pleaded guilty to 4 charges of fraud: 2 counts related to dishonesty and 2 counts related to dishonestly gaining employment in Queensland. In exchange for his plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to drop 9 other charges against him, including 2 counts of killing people and 2 counts of medical negligence.

Imagine what the families of the dead patients thought about their cases being ‘dropped.’

At his sentence hearing, Judge Terence Martin said to Patel, “You calculatedly deceived your way into that position [at Bundaberg Hospital].” He declared that Patel’s unlawful conduct put patients at risk, and added, “I see no indication of, and hear no expression of, your genuine remorse for your offending.” Patel was sentenced to 2 years in prison, which was suspended because of the time he had already served in jail.

28 years had gone by since Patel’s medical competency was first recognized.

Timeline of Incompetence

Here is a brief recap of this loony-tune’s swath of carnage:

1984

Medical authorities criticized Patel on several occasions for failing to properly examine his patients before surgery. Patel is fined $5000 for negligence by a medical committee and is put on probation for 3 years and suspended from practice for 6 months.

1998

Patel is living and practicing in Oregon. The Oregon Board of Medical Examiners launches an investigation after complaints that the doctor had botched numerous operations – 79 patient screw-ups. The Board discovers that at least 3 patients died due to Patel’s gross negligence. One patient died in 1994 after pancreatic surgery by the doctor. One woman died in 1996 after Patel performed pancreatic and colon surgery on her. And 1 patient died in 1997 after Patel performed a colostomy on the patient. The idiot reattached her bowel backwards.

2000

Patel’s Oregon medical license is restricted. He is banned from performing certain types of operations, including liver and pancreatic surgeries. Patel moves to New York to practice surgery.

2001

The New York Board for Professional Medical Conduct pressures Patel to surrender his medical license. They quietly call him ‘incompetent.’

2003

Patel moves to Queensland, Australia. Over a 2-year period, Patel performs numerous complex operations. Medical staff note that many of those procedures were well beyond Patel’s medical expertise. Of the 1,202 patients he treated, it was believed that a minimum of 87 of his patients died due to complications related to his surgeries. He became the butt of jokes around the hospital, with some staff referring to Patel as “Doctor E. coli” because so many patients developed infections related to his sloppy work.

2004

Fluid accumulates around a patient’s heart and needs to be drained. The operation is routine, but Patel stabs his patient multiple times trying to penetrate the chest’s pleural cavity. Patel’s intervention fails and the patient dies the following day. Complaints concerning Patel botching the fluid-draining procedure leads to an investigation that uncovers 90 of Patel’s patients who died shortly after he treated them in Australia as well as the U.S. The same investigation links approximately another 170 cases concerning medical misconduct.

An independent audit by Queensland health officials analyzed 221 patient files and concluded that Patel most likely contributed to the death of 8 patients due to “adverse outcomes after being in Patel’s care.” The report went on to further state that Patel probably caused another 8 of his patient’s deaths, but the evidence proved to be inconclusive.

Patel, now age 65, is an Indian-born physician found guilty in 2010 on three charges of manslaughter and one charge of “causing grievous bodily harm to patients” as director of surgery between 2003-2005 at a hospital in Queensland.

Justice John Byrne in Queensland State Supreme Court sentenced Patel to seven years in prison.

Dr Jayant Patel guilty

How many people should we allow a doctor to kill before we say . . . oops.

This butcher of a surgeon’s final trial happened 25 years after questions were first aired regarding his incompetency. Hundreds of former patients and their families had waited decades to face the man who irreparably damaged their lives.

While in Portland, Patel was employed by Kaiser Permanente, before that organization ordered him to stop performing surgeries in 1998. Kaiser reviewed 78 complaints filed against him. Eventually, Oregon Board of Medical Examiners cited him for “gross or repeated acts of negligence.” (Read The Oregonian’s series about Patel and his work at Kaiser)

Patel was found guilty of killing patients Mervyn John Morris, James Edward Phillips and Gerry Kemps, and the grievous bodily harm of Ian Rodney Vowles.

The jury heard evidence that Patel rushed Gerry Kemps into surgery on his esophagus without proper planning, then failed to spot profuse internal bleeding and stitched up the patient. The 77-year-old died of blood loss.

Morris died after Patel failed to identify the cause of rectal bleeding. In Vowles’ case, Patel found a benign cyst during a colonoscopy and removed the bowel rather than ordering a biopsy. The specimen later showed no sign of cancer.

Here’s another look at this madman:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/doctor-death-jayant-patel-escapes-with-fraud-conviction-and-plans-return-to-work-8957992.html

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Our Observations:

Patel graduated from M P Shah Medical College, Saurashtra University, State of Gujarah, India. He then emigrated to the United States and began legally cutting on unsuspecting patients with no real supervision whatsoever. In America we bow and pray at the alter of medicine regardless of where the practitioner comes from. And even when they kill a long line of patients, we never – EVER – deport them.

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8 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Self-inflicted Tragedy: Healthcare at it’s Worst

  1. Tom Calarco says:

    Patric: I’m appalled by all the fraud and corruption in the medical field. Are you going to publish your blogs in a book? If you do, you need a chapter or more on the malfeasance and corruption in the FDA and its collusion with Big Pharma.

    • Thank you for visiting our site and commenting. The answer to your question is that we have already published two books that cover exactly the subjects you mention.

      “The Paramedic Heretic” & “America’s Dumbest Doctors.”

      • hackatomjones says:

        I looked up the books and as I have enjoyed your blogs, I will order one or both of them. Still, I’m wondering about the issue of Big Pharma and the FDA. It doesn’t appear from the descriptions on Amazon that you covered this. What you have done is certainly important. But the corruption at this highest level is the biggest root that needs to be exposed and eradicated.

  2. hackatomjones says:

    What are the titles?

  3. hackatomjones says:

    Ok, I see now … how much is in there regarding the FDA and Big Pharma?

  4. Ron says:

    One thing which bothered me in my 20 years working in hospitals as a pharmacist: The subtleties of the English language were often lost on foreign physicians, and when one of them is incapable of writing explicit orders for such things as chemotherapy you have a very good chance of serious consequences.

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