Former surgeon Jayant Patel is free to return to the US after avoiding jail time in Queensland for fraud.
The 63-year-old former doctor was given a two-year suspended sentence in the Brisbane District Court on Thursday for lying to gain employment as a surgeon.
He showed little emotion as the sentence was handed down but told reporters in a brief statement outside court he was glad the “long and difficult journey” had ended.
“I’m pleased that it’s over and I’ll being going back to my life and my work,” he said, before thanking his legal team, friends and family and “hundreds” of well-wishers.
Indian-born Patel refused to answer reporters’ questions, including whether he had anything to say to Queenslanders.
Judge Terry Martin told the sentencing hearing Patel’s offending had posed a risk to patients and was extremely serious.
However, the judge took into account the two-and-a-half years Patel has already served in prison.
“This then brings to an end a lengthy, tragic chapter in the history of Queensland,” Justice Martin said.
“You have been heavily punished and I dare say you will continue to suffer the consequences of your stay in Queensland,” he told Patel.
“There seems little doubt that your career is forever ruined.”
The court was told Patel was banned from conducting certain major surgeries without a second opinion in the US state of Oregon in 2000 and struck off New York’s roster of physicians in 2001.
He failed to disclose the restrictions to Queensland’s medical board, lying on forms, and fudged his employment history on his CV when he successfully applied for a job at Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2003.
Patel left for the US under a cloud in 2005 but was extradited to Queensland in 2008 to face criminal negligence charges, including allegations his surgery had killed and maimed patients.
He was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm in 2010 but the convictions were quashed on appeal last year.
The charges were ultimately dropped last week after two retrials failed to secure convictions.
Crown prosecutor Peter Davis said Patel’s “cynical” fraud had the potential to cause enormous damage.
“He deliberately sets out to try to get a job somewhere else overseas where his misdeeds won’t be disclosed and takes a job in the very same field where he’s already had issues,” Mr Davis said.
Patel’s barrister Ken Fleming QC said his client had worked “exceedingly hard” at Bundaberg, had spent two-and-a-half years in jail and his case was well known.
“The vilification has caused him to live effectively in isolation,” Mr Fleming said.