Former gynaecologist Graeme Reeves will serve at least an extra 18 months in jail for assaulting patients, including cutting off one woman’s genitalia. But he has also been acquitted of one charge of aggravated indecent assault.
However he now faces the prospect of a manslaughter charge after fresh claims his negligence cost a new mother her life.
The new allegations against Reeves arose after he acknowledged to Glebe Coroner’s Court that he misdiagnosed 38-year-old Kerry Ann McAllister with a virus, instead of a bacterial infection, after she gave birth to her third son in The Hills Private Hospital in May 1996.
She died on May 14 at Westmead Hospital.
In the Court of Criminal Appeal on Thursday, February 21, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst announced the extra jail time on a charge of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Carolyn DeWaegeneire, of Wolumla, who needed surgery in 2002.
When Ms DeWaegeneire had the operation at Pambula hospital on a pre-cancerous growth, Reeves cut off her external genitalia.
Reeves was sentenced on July 1, 2011 to a maximum jail term of two-and-a-half years and a minimum of one year on that charge. That sentence was set aside and replaced with a maximum of four years and a minimum of two years. Less than two weeks after his original sentence NSW Attorney General Greg Smith announced the decision to appeal against the sentence, on the grounds it was “manifestly inadequate”. Reeves also appealed his conviction.
Reeves was due for parole in May, but his earliest date of parole is now November 30, 2014.
Ms DeWaegeneire cried as she left court, recalling how the Reeves matter had affected her life.
“Don’t ask me how it’s affected me. It’s beyond comprehension.
“I used to be loved beautifully by my beautiful French husband. What Reeves did, he took all that part of me away and it haunts me.”
She said she didn’t have any expectations about the outcome of the appeal, but hoped she could take a step forward.
Reeves was also sentenced for the two assaults committed while he was a gynaecologist in Bega, and for deceiving the local area health service into thinking he was still a licensed obstetrician.
On Thursday when the appeal judgement was handed down, Reeves was acquitted on one of those assault charges, and had more jail time added to another.
But now he faces the prospect of a manslaughter charge after the Deputy State Coroner, Hugh Dillon, referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, finding that Kerry Ann McAllister died from septicaemia caused by an undiagnosed post-partum bacterial infection.
Mrs McAllister gave birth on May 8, 1996, and within 12 hours she had a 38 degree temperature, for which Reeves prescribed Panadol, the inquest was told. When her temperature rose over following days, Reeves angrily told a nurse: ‘’I’m well aware of her temperature. She’s got a virus.’’
Reeves said he thought it was likely she had a virus because her husband and other family members were sick with a bug, the inquest heard.
Her temperature later climbed to 40.3 degrees, her pulse began to race and she complained of aching limbs, counsel assisting the coroner, Ian Fraser, said. Mr Fraser said Reeves did not examine Mrs McAllister often and, at one point, would not enter her hospital room, saying he did not want to contract the virus.
After Reeves sought advice from a haematologist about blood tests an overnight doctor had ordered, Mrs McAllister was transferred to Westmead Hospital on May 13 and was immediately given antibiotics, but she went into cardiac arrest and died early on May 14, the inquest was told.
In evidence to the coronial inquest, Reeves acknowledged that he misdiagnosed Mrs McAllister. ‘’It’s my responsibility. There’s no grey area. I made a mistake which cost her her life. I can’t live with it … it happened and it can’t be changed.’’
Reeves said at the time he was suffering from undiagnosed diabetes and had depression, both of which changed his behaviour.
Mrs McAllister’s family blames the medical profession as a whole.
‘’It should have been a time for joy and celebration. Instead my sister, following the birth, was in pain that [got] to the point that morphine had no effect,’’ her sister Jacqui Bundy said.
‘’How is it possible that a specialist doctor could fail to provide care so basic?’’