Surgeon operated on wrong part of brain

CHRISTOPHER KNAUS
Last updated 17:02 20/03/2013

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A neurosurgeon in Australia found to have operated on the wrong part of a patient's brain using inappropriate instruments has been denied a chance to appeal the ruling against him.

Retired neurosurgeon Raymond Leonard George Newcombe was found to have failed three patients under his care in the 1990s and early 2000s by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal last year.

Dr Newcombe was found to have acted incompetently in treating one of those patients, described as patient L.

The Tribunal found he had used inappropriate instruments, and had not realised he was, or could be, operating on the wrong part of the patient L's brain.

Dr Newcombe was also found to have failed to provide the patient with adequate care after the operation.

Lawyers for Dr Newcombe missed the 28 day cut off to appeal the decision.

But they sought leave to appeal after the cut off date, citing lengthy delays between the hearing in September 2009 and the decision in June 2012.

The reasons for the decision were not published until October 2, and were not sent to Dr Newcombe's lawyers until October 4.

Dr Newcombe's lawyers said those delays meant their client was not afforded procedural fairness.

They argued the delays had also impaired the ability of the Tribunal to assess the allegations and the evidence against the neurosurgeon.

Dr Newcombe's lawyers said the Tribunal had made errors in the findings of incompetence relating to patient L, including an error about what instrument was used in surgery

But lawyers for the respondent, the ACT Medical Board of the Medical Board of Australia, argued the delays were not grounds for an appeal to be allowed after the cut-off date.

"Whilst my learned friend may well be right in saying that there are cases when delay will poison the administration of justice by the inability to properly grapple with the case, with the facts and principles at hand, this is not one of those cases," Counsel for the respondent said.

In an order published on Wednesday, the Tribunal found that the delays had not denied procedural fairness and had not impaired the ability to assess the evidence and the allegations against Dr Newcombe.

The application to appeal after the cut off was dismissed.

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- Canberra Times

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