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Action against Dr Death in 15 days

February 13, 2007 17:04 IST

The Queensland Medical Board is set to begin disciplinary action against India-born surgeon Jayant Patel, dubbed as Dr Death for his alleged role in the death of 17 patients in Australia, within a fortnight.

Lawyers for the Queensland Medical Board and Attorney-General Kerry Shine attended a Health Practitioners Tribunal directions hearing in Brisbane on Tuesday over Patel's clinical treatment of eight patients and allegations he misled the board about his state registration.

The state's attorney general has, meanwhile, pushed for legal proceedings to be closed to the public. Shine's lawyer Paul Freeburn said his client wanted the board's case to proceed quickly but was concerned evidence heard in the tribunal hearing could prejudice criminal proceedings brought by police.

"There will be one lot of evidence, perhaps a wide scope of evidence... with the prospect (that) jurors in the community may be influenced which may affect the trial," Freeburn told the hearing.

He suggested written submissions be made to the tribunal to avoid intense media scrutiny. Lawyer for the board, Kathryn McMillan, said her client wasn't opposed to the hearings being closed to the public while the criminal case proceeded.

However, she requested the tribunal make materials publicly available in the future.

Judge Kerry O'Brien said he "accepted there were issues to be considered" and ordered any relevant material from both parties be submitted within the next 14 days, before he made further responses.

The case has been adjourned several times over concerns that punishment dealt by the board could jeopardise criminal proceedings.

Patel faces a maximum penalty of USD 100,000, permanent deregistration in Queensland and notification of the penalty to medical registration boards worldwide.

The surgeon fled to the US in 2005 after allegations of medical incompetence surfaced following his two-year stint as director of surgery at the Bundaberg Base hospital.

He has been linked to the deaths of 17 patients.

Warrants were issued for his arrest in November last on a number of charges, including three of manslaughter and five of causing grievous bodily harm.

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