A former NSW doctor has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, following medical negligence allegations in a case where a patient died from septicaemia.
Dr Graeme Reeves has been accused of ignoring nurses who tried to alert him to the seriousness of the patient’s condition, as he erroneously believed she had a virus and didn’t want to catch it.
Prosecutors told a District Court judge that Kerry Ann McAllister, 38, died four days after Dr Reeves misdiagnosed her bacterial infection in 1996. She had given birth at The Hills Private Hospital one day before developing septicaemia.
Medical negligence allegations
According to the Australian Associated Press, the statements of numerous nurses were read out in court, with many claiming Dr Reeves had brushed off their concerns over Ms McAllister’s health.
The patient’s temperature soared to 40.1 degrees Celsius the day after her child was born and her condition worsened over the following three days until she required morphine for the pain.
Dr Reeves allegedly refused to see the patient, claiming it was a “waste of time” until an orthopaedic consultant had attended to her. However, a blood test ordered by another doctor showed the seriousness of her condition.
Crown prosecutor David Price argued that only at this point did the defendant consult with colleagues and arrange an urgent transfer for Ms McAllister. Sadly, she died the following day, with Mr Price saying that a competent obstetrician should have ruled out the possibility of a virus sooner.
“If Dr Reeves had acted in a different manner it is highly likely that Kerry would have received appropriate treatment much earlier,” he explained.
Does his negligence amount to manslaughter?
While Dr Reeves has admitted negligence for the incident, he does not believe his conduct warrants a criminal trial.
The doctor’s barrister, Ragni Mathur, said the fact the patient’s husband and son were suffering from a virus at the time had confused the diagnosis. Three other medical practitioners had also seen the patient and failed to diagnose a bacterial infection.
“There is no question that Dr Reeves, more then 20 years ago, made a mistake. That mistake, however … does not amount to manslaughter,” she stated.
It is not the first time Dr Reeves has been in front of a NSW court. In 2008, he faced 17 criminal charges, including sexual and indecent assaults, as well as genital mutilation.
Dubbed the Butcher of Bega, he spent time in jail for maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm after removing a female patient’s clitoris and labia without consent in 2002.