(rephrasing para two)
Brisbane, May 10, (UNI) Indian-trained surgeon Dr Jayant Patel, who fled Australia last April after allegations of medical incompetence resulting in the deaths of 17 patients, was following criminal proceedings against him ''very closely'' and was taking it all very seriously, his lawyer Damian Scattini said here today.
The lawyer was talking to newsmen after a hearing of the Queensland Medical Board's case against the disgraced surgeon. He, however, refused comment on Dr Patel's whereabouts. It is believed that the surgeon is in Oregon, United States.
The Medical Board of Queensland successfully sought an adjournment of six months in the case against Dr Patel at the request of Queensland's Director of Public Prosecutions.
Dr Patel was originally linked to deaths of more than 80 patients at the facility but the figure was later revised to 17 after two inquiries.
''I'm not at liberty to say what Dr Patel's doing at the moment ... he's following it all very closely,'' Mr Scattini said.
''He takes it all very seriously and it's been a nightmare for him,'' the lawyer added.
Asked if Dr Patel was likely to return promptly to face proceedings against him, Mr Scattini replied, ''Of course not, can you imagine what would happen if he came back here?'' The Queensland government has promised to do all it can to extradite Dr Patel to face criminal charges, sources said.
Lawyer Paul McCowan, who represents the board, said it was unsure if Dr Patel was still practising but that it was unlikely because of the glare of US authorities.
The board has also charged that Dr Patel gave it false and misleading information when applying for registration in 2003 and 2004.
Under the Health Practitioners (Professional Standards) Act 1999, Dr Patel faces a maximum penalty of 100,000 dollar and permanent deregistration in Queensland.
Dr Patel does not have to be present at the tribunal for the matter to proceed.
His Brisbane-based lawyer said he and Dr Patel were waiting to see what evidence the Medical Board was relying on, but ''I imagine he'll be defending the charges vigorously''.
UNI XC SK HT1520