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Another Dr Death in Australia?

August 21, 2006 10:03 IST

An Indian-trained surgeon has been blamed for negligence leading to the death of an elderly woman in Australia.

The case comes to light close on the heels of the Dr Death scandal in which another Indian surgeon Jayant Patel was implicated in patient deaths at Bundaberg Base hospital in Queensland.

Lillian Margaret Shaw, 67, died at her home near Ipswich from a burst stomach ulcer on January 13 last year, despite three visits by Dr Jaideep Bali preceding her death.

The doctor has a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Master of Surgery from Punjab University in India.

A coroner found that she had been given a potentially fatal dose of morphine hours before she died, a media report said, adding the doctor later tried to cover this up.

Bali has been suspended from the local Lowood medical centre on Friday pending an investigation into his role in Shaw's death.

Shaw's family said the Beattie Government had to share responsibility for the tragedy, The Courier Mail reported.

"It's another Dr Death," said Shaw's son Karhl Earnshaw. "It goes all the way up to the Beattie Government and the health minister."

Shaw's husband, Ian - described by the coroner as 'an impressive and intelligent witness' - said the doctor did not examine his wife during any of the visits.

The inquest heard that Bali did not make any record of having administered morphine during his last house call and continued to tell Shaw's family for some months that he had not done so.

Coroner Matthew McLaughlin concluded that Bali was not a reliable witness and said he strongly suspected the GP had 'deliberately been untruthful' and, initially at least, did his best to conceal the fact he had given Shaw morphine.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said tragedies such as Shaw's death were 'the Beattie Government's real record on health'.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said he had directed Queensland Health to forward the coroner's report to the Medical Board for immediate assessment.

"The reported circumstances surrounding Shaw's death are very sad and her family is understandaby distressed and are entitled to have their questions answered," he said. "If the coroner's formal findings suggest any implications involving medical administration in Queensland, I will pursue them vigorously."

But he said Bali was working in private practice and 'has no association with Queensland's public health system'.

Bali at first refused to give evidence at the inquest and did so only after being granted immunity from his testimony being used in any other court proceedings.

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