SYDNEY: Notorious former gynaecologist Graeme Reeves “made a mistake” when he misdiagnosed a seriously ill new mother but does not deserve criminal punishment, his barrister says.
Dubbed the “Butcher of Bega” after being convicted of sexual assault, indecent assault, mutilation of a woman’s genitals and pleading guilty to fraud, the deregistered doctor is now on trial charged with manslaughter over the death of a female patient more than 20 years ago.
Mrs Kerry Ann McAllister, 38, died from septicaemia after she gave birth to her third son in The Hills Private Hospital (then known as Baulkham Hills Private Hospital) in May 1996.
In his opening address in the NSW District Court on Friday, prosecutor David Price said a “reasonably competent” obstetrician could have diagnosed Mrs McAllister as having a bacterial virus.
“His failure to take steps to appropriately investigate Kerry’s condition and his failure to assume and treat for bacterial infection was a gross deviation from the standard of care of a reasonably confident obstetrician,” Mr Price said.
“It seems evident that Kerry had a bacterial infection from the outset … If Dr Reeves had acted in a different manner it is highly likely that Kerry would have received appropriate treatment much earlier.”
The court heard that Reeves maintained that Mrs McAllister had a viral infection and had repeatedly brushed off the concerns nurses had about her increasing temperature and pain.
It was only after Reeves saw the results of the blood tests ordered by another doctor that he organised for Mrs McAllister to be transferred to Westmead Hospital where she died the next day.
The court heard that Mrs McAllister had complained of a painful throat and congested lungs and hip and legs.
There is expected to be evidence that when Mrs McAllister arrived at Westmead Hospital she was left in limbo and transferred to a ward not appropriate for a critically ill patient.
Reeves was found guilty by a District Court jury in 2011 for maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent after he surgically removed the clitoris and labia of a patient without her consent during an operation to take out a pre-cancerous lesion. He was also found guilty by judge alone trial of sexually assaulting another patient.
The trial continues in the District Court, Sydney.