Police investigating operating table death

21:08, Dec 07 2012
Jim Nicholls
BOTCHED OP: Jim Nicholls, 80, suffered massive blood loss during an operation by Michael Parry.

Police have launched their own investigation after a patient died from an operation at a public hospital.

The surgeon is also linked to another death and two other botched operations.

Michael Parry was stood down on full pay from Wairau Hospital in Blenheim after Jim Nicholls, 80, suffered massive blood loss during an operation on May 24.

Angie Webber
SCARS: Angie Webber shows the scars from her botched keyhole surgery.

The victim of one botched surgery believes he should never be allowed to operate again.

A coroner asked police to investigate Mr Nicholls' death, and that of Picton woman Rachel Riddell, 31, who died of significant blood loss in January 2011 after an operation performed by Mr Parry.

After she met police yesterday, coroner Carla na Nagara put her inquiry on hold while police pursue their own investigation.


Detective Inspector Geoff Jago said police were now making further inquiries into one of the deaths to determine if there was any "liability or culpability". Police would not confirm which of the deaths they are investigating.

As well as the police inquiry, the Medical Council is investigating other complaints against Mr Parry that were referred to it by the health and disability commissioner.

Zimbabwe-born Mr Parry moved to New Zealand in April 2010. He told The Dominion Post yesterday: "This is an ongoing investigation. There are patient privacy issues at stake so it's just not appropriate for me to comment at this time."

Paul Nicholls said his father went in for surgery to have a hernia and his gall bladder removed. His death during surgery shocked the family.

"Nobody wants to have one of their family . . . finish their days on an operating table like that.

"In light of prior incidents, there should be some serious consideration of what his future role as a surgeon should be."

The Dominion Post has also spoken to two other women who suffered serious complications during surgery by Mr Parry and had to be sent to Christchurch Hospital for follow-up care.

Their complaints to the health and disability commissioner were referred to the Medical Council, which in March ordered Mr Parry to undergo a performance assessment.

They both said police had told them they were looking at their complaints as part of their investigation.

One of the women, Angie Webber, 26, counts herself "lucky to be alive" after going to Wairau Hospital in December 2010 to have her gall bladder removed.

The solo mother from Picton said Mr Parry told her it was straight-forward keyhole surgery and she would be back at work within a week.

"The chances of anything happening were 1 in 3000. ‘You're more likely to get hit by a car', I remember him saying that."

When she woke up after the operation, her mother was standing over her crying. "I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, what's wrong?' "

During surgery, her bile duct was damaged. Mr Parry ended the operation, leaving her gall bladder in position.

Miss Webber was transferred to Christchurch Hospital, where her abdomen was found to be full of bile. A specialist performed open surgery to repair the damage.

"I'm pretty angry about it. It's not a very nice thing to have to go through, and my scar is huge. To me, he shouldn't be doing it [surgery]."

A 36-year-old Upper Hutt woman also suffered complications during an operation to remove her gall bladder in February last year. She also needed further treatment in Christchurch.

Mr Parry is still employed by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, but locums have been contracted to cover his workload.

The DHB refused to comment yesterday, but last month chief executive John Peters gave assurances that patient safety had "the highest priority with staff".

The Dominion Post