Hospital specialist supports Dr Patel's decision to operate

A SPECIALIST physician at Bundaberg Hospital has backed Dr Jayant Patel's decision to operate on a Bargara man who later died from post-surgical complications.

Dr Dawid Smalberger told Brisbane Supreme Court that when Mervyn Morris, 75, arrived with rectal bleeding, they initially waited to see if the bleeding would "stop spontaneously" before opting for a sigmoid colectomy surgery.

Barrister Ken Fleming, acting for Patel, asked: "You'd agree, wouldn't you, there has been a conservative approach to see what happens to the blood levels, to see what happens to the bleeding and then if that isn't resolved, do the operation?".

"I think, initially, there was a more conservative approach to see whether the bleeding would stop and when the bleeding didn't stop the decision was made to go ahead with surgery to stop the bleeding," Mr Smalberger said.

"In my own mind, I think that was a reasonable approach especially in light of the patient's known coronary artery disease."

Patel is on trial in Brisbane Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to unlawfully killing Mr Morris at the Bundaberg hospital in 2003.

The Crown alleges Patel should have recognised Mr Morris was suffering from radiation proctitis when he was admitted with rectal bleeding.

Instead, Dr Patel removed part of Mr Morris's sigmoid colon in an attempt to stop the bleed.

When asked whether Mr Morris died from poor dietary intake, Mr Smalberger said it could have been a contributing factor but not the cause.

"My opinion is that he died from a bacterial infection," he said.

"I do think he was malnourished to some extent and it does appear from the notes post-operatively that he was not taking adequate volumes of food by mouth.

"That could have been a contributing factor that would have made him more liable to develop complications such as infections although I don't think he actually died from malnutrition per se."

Mr Morris's death certificate was shown to the court, listing autoimmune cirrhosis and fluid overload leading to respiratory failure as the primary cause of death.

It also listed malnutrition and sigmoid colectomy, which was the operation to stop the rectal bleeding.

The trial continues.



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