Patel 'threw tantrum' before operation

The Morning Bulletin

May 17, 2010

SURGEON Jayant Patel threw a "tantrum" after finding out a brain-injured patient's ventilator would not be turned off until proper procedures had been followed, a court has heard.

The Queensland Supreme Court on Monday heard from Bundaberg Base Hospital intensive care unit director Dr Martin Carter, who gave evidence regarding the death of 77-year-old patient Gerry Kemps on December 21, 2004.

Dr Carter told the court that the morning before Mr Kemps' operation on December 20, Patel inquired as to why a ventilator keeping a woman with a brain injury alive had not been turned off after he had requested it.

The court has heard Patel required the ventilator for the operation on Mr Kemps, as there were only two in the entire hospital. "(I told him) I would review the lady in question," Dr Carter said.

When asked by prosecutor Ross Martin what Patel's demeanour was like, Dr Carter replied: "If I had seen it in a child, I would have called it a tantrum."

Dr Carter said after examining the notes of the female patient and her CAT scan, he had advised the patient's family that the prognosis was very poor and there was nothing to be gained by leaving her on the ventilator.

A decision was made to turn the ventilator off and the patient died shortly after, the court heard.

Regarding the death of Mr Kemps, Dr Carter said he was "surprised" it had not been referred to the coroner. He said he had found research showing survival rates for one year post-oesophagectomy were about 90 per cent.

The trial has heard Patel had conducted four oesophagectomies at Bundaberg Base Hospital, with two of those patients dying and one suffering major complications.

Dr Carter told the court that after discussing with colleagues at 1pm on December 23 whether they should refer the matter to the coroner, he discovered through the local newspaper that Mr Kemps' funeral was at 2pm that same day.

"It would have postponed the funeral until at least after Christmas," he said. "That was the key (reason)... why we chose not to go to the coroner."

Patel, 60, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Kemps and of two other patients. He has also pleaded not guilty to the grievous bodily harm of a fourth man.

The trial continues.