India-born doctor 'failed to investigate' cancer concerns

A local doctor, Marthinus Nel, referred one of his patients, Mervyn John Morris, 75, to the Bundaberg Base Hospital, where 59-year-old Patel was director of surgery, for further tests after he became concerned that he might have cancer.

However, Patel allegedly "failed to adequately investigate" these concerns before removing part of the colon. Morris later died, Australian news agency AAP reported Wednesday.

Patel has pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court in Brisbane to the manslaughter of Morris and two other patients, Gerry Kemps and James Edward Phillips. He has also pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to 62-year-old Ian Rodney Vowles.

The charges relate to Patel's time as director of surgery at the Bundaberg Base Hospital between 2003 and 2005.

Nel Wednesday told the Supreme Court he ordered a number of tests on Morris in 2003 after the patient complained of weight loss following radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Morris was also suffering from intermittent rectal bleeding.
Nel said the tests revealed a "suspicious mass" on Morris' liver, which he feared could be cancer.

"I have real concerns that this man is harbouring a malignancy which is responsible for his loss of appetite, loss of weight and his obstructive liver biochemistry," Nel had written in his letter of referral in March 2003 to the Bundaberg Hospital.
However, the prosecution has alleged that Patel, who operated on Morris just a few weeks later, "failed to properly investigate" these concerns before removing part of his colon.

Nel, who was Morris's general practitioner since 2000, said he never had any discussion with Patel about his patient's condition.

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