Melbourne, July 17 : The Queensland authorities in a surprise move have dropped one of the 14 charges against Dr Jayant Patel, a doctor of Indian origin who acquired the sobriquet "Dr Death" for botching several surgeries resulting in his patients deaths.
The removal of a "grievous bodily harm and negligent acts or omissions" charge related to an alleged bungled operation on a Queensland cancer patient, is believed to have been dropped on a request from the US State Department.
Without Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's approval, Patel cannot be handed over to the two Queensland detectives who arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday to take him back to Brisbane where he is expected to face trial.
The removal of the charge to appease the US State Department, however, is expected to fast-track Patel's extradition with Rice now giving the green light.
The move came after a hastily arranged hearing in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday morning by US District Court Judge Dennis Hubel, who has presided over Patel's three-month extradition case.
The media and public were barred from listening to the hearing, held via teleconference with US Government prosecutors and Patel's lawyer, but the judge released an amended judgment following the hearing.
Hubel's new order reveals Patel will only be extradited to Australia on 13 charges.
The US State Department has a policy of not commenting publicly on extradition matters, but it is believed it was behind the charge being scrubbed.
The US State Department, one of the final impediments to Patel being extradited, has been examining Queensland authorities' case against Patel.
Last month, the 58-year-old surgeon dropped plans to fight extradition, eliminating a drawn-out legal battle that could have taken more than a year.
The dropped charge relates to one of Patel's alleged surgical bungles while working at Queensland's Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2005.
Patel was arrested at his Portland home on March 11 and has been in custody since.
Patel, a US citizen, worked at the Bundaberg hospital from 2003 to 2005 and Queensland authorities allege he hid his chequered work history as a surgeon in the US when he applied for a job as a Bundaberg surgeon.