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KATU 2 News - Portland, Oregon

Parents file $1.5 million lawsuit against Dr. Patel

March 8, 2006

 - By Bob Heye
and Web Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. - The man nicknamed 'Doctor Death' in Australia is now facing a $1.5 million lawsuit on top of his other troubles.

A husband and wife from Portland say Dr. Jayant Patel botched a surgery that led to the death of their 3-year-old son.

The McClellan family contends Dr. Patel failed them as a surgeon. They also contend that hospitals and even the state, failed as a system that was supposed to protect their son from doctors like Patel.

The family's story begins back in 1999 when 3-year-old Ian went in for a relatively simple surgery to put in a gastric feeding tube, a surgery performed by Dr. Patel at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

Ian developed an infection and Patel performed a second surgery, but the boy got worse.

A different doctor then performed a third surgery.

"This doctor said 'It doesn't look good. His whole bowel has died. I mean, it's all necrotic.' And so, the option was basically 'we'll just have to close him up and you'll have time to call family.' And that's what we did," said Ana Marie McClellan, Ian's mother.

The McClellans did not know about botched surgeries and patient deaths linked to Dr. Patel until last April when they saw a television story about him.

"When I saw his picture, I knew that he was the surgeon who had operated on Ian," said Ana Marie.

"We thought about our son's death in one way for six or seven years and then one night, boom, it's all changed," said Matthew McClellan, Ian's father.

The McClellan's lawsuit also names Kaiser Permanente, the organization Patel worked for, OHSU, and the Board of Oregon Medical Examiners as co-defendants.

Kaiser Permanente and the Board of Oregon Medical Examiners would not comment, but OHSU seemed to distance itself from the case, issuing the following statement:

"Dr. Jayant Patel was granted a clinical appointment at OHSU, which was related only to his service as a physician of Kaiser Permanente."

The McClellans claim all those organizations failed to protect their son from Patel and fear that system is still broken.

"You have years of this going on and it does make you wonder, well who else out there is going to be affected in the same way," said Matthew.

"If any one of those systems had cut him off at the legs, so to speak, this wouldn't have happened," Ana Marie said.

The McClellan's attorney says Washington state officials acted correctly in 1996 when Dr. Patel applied for licensing there.

When Patel failed to mention past disciplinary action in New York on his application, Washington state started asking questions and Patel withdrew his application.

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