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Australia Surgeon Wins New Trial on Manslaughter Charges

Jayant Patel, a surgeon convicted of manslaughter of three of his patients in Australia, won a bid at the country’s top court to quash the 2010 jury decision.

The High Court of Australia today ordered a new trial for Patel, who argued his convictions on three manslaughter charges and one charge of unlawfully doing grievous harm amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

“A miscarriage of justice had occurred because, on the 43rd day of a 58-day trial, the prosecution radically changed its case in a way that rendered irrelevant much of the evidence that had been admitted,” according to a summary of the High Court ruling posted on its Web site.

India-born Patel, 62, operated on two patients in 2003 and one in 2004, all of whom died with the jury concluding the doctor caused their death and the killing was unlawful. Patel also removed a patient’s bowel even though a biopsy showed a polyp was benign, with the jury finding the removal amounted to causing grievous harm to the patient. Patel was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The trial judge and the appeal court applied the wrong law and in each case Patel was convicted of a criminally negligent decision to operate, Liam Kelly, Patel’s lawyer wrote in his submission. He wasn’t convicted of performing incompetent surgery, Kelly said. The high court rejected that submission.

The prosecution changed tactics in the trial, moving from an allegation that the doctor provided a standard of care so low that it was criminal to whether the surgical procedures should have been undertaken, according to the court summary.

“Much of the evidence about the surgery and post-operative care was prejudicial to the appellant but no longer relevant to the prosecution’s revised case,” according to the summary. “A substantial miscarriage of justice occurred.”

The case is Between Jayant Mukundray Patel and The Queen. B11/2012. High Court of Australia (Brisbane).

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