Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Australia's Dubious Dr. Jayant Patel

Des Bramich

Des Bramich
Des Bramich

In July 2004, Des Bramich, 56, an Agnes Water resident and earth-moving contractor was admitted to the emergency room at the Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland, Australia, after a friend's camper collapsed on him, Jo Chandler reported in The Age. Even though his sternum was crushed from the impact, he showed amazing signs of recovery.

Jayant Patel
Jayant Patel

But as soon as Bramich's condition appeared to be stabilizing, he suddenly took a turn for the worse. Fluid was building up around his heart, which needed to be attended to immediately. Dr. Jayant Patel, 55, who was on duty that day, took control of the situation. He immediately scheduled an operation to drain the excess liquid, "a procedure that required a large needle to be pushed into a sac surrounding his heart," Meraiah Foley reported for the Associated Press.

Toni Hoffmann, nurse
Toni Hoffmann, nurse

During what should have been a routine operation, medical staff watched in shock as Patel stabbed Bramich with a needle around 50 times in an effort to penetrate into the chest's pleural space. Chandler quoted Toni Hoffmann, a nurse in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU): "the whole thing was like a nightmare" and Patel was "really out of control." The intervention failed, leading to Bramich's death the following day.

Hoffmann filed numerous complaints concerning Patel's handling of Bramich, as well as other patients. The grievances sparked an investigation, in which Patel would be the primary suspect in at least 90 patient deaths in Australia and the United States. Moreover, he would be linked to at least another 170 other cases of alleged medical misconduct in both continents, which had yet to be proven. As details slowly emerged, investigators realized that they were unraveling what was likely one of the biggest medical scandals in Australian history.

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