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Surgeon accused over deaths

First Edition

A BRITISH heart surgeon has been charged on four counts of manslaughter by police in New Zealand after the death of four of his patients, writes Tim Kelsey.

Keith Ramstead, a former consultant at Christchurch hospital, has also been charged with making a false statement relating to the deaths of three patients.

Dr Ramstead returned to Britain after leaving his post in New Zealand as a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon for the Canterbury Area Health Board in March 1992.

His resignation coincided with the publication of a report by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons which concluded that seven of his operations - including the four that form the basis of the current criminal proceedings - were 'incompetently managed'. The report said his 23 per cent death rate for lung removal operations, compared with the expected 6 to 9 per cent, was 'concerningly high'.

Dr Ramstead's lawyer is believed to be discussing his client's return to New Zealand for a preliminary hearing in August.