Graeme Stephen Reeves


Graeme Stephen Reeves

Infobox Medical Person
name = Graeme Stephen Reeves


image_width =
caption =
birth_date =
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
profession = Former doctor
specialism = Gynecology and obstetrics
research_field =
known_for = Deregistration; malpractice; alleged crimes against patients
years_active =
education =
work_institutions = Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, Pambula Hospital, Bega Hospital
relations =

Graeme Stephen Reeves (born 1949 or 1950) is a deregistered former doctor from New South Wales, Australia, dubbed the Butcher of Bega in the press. Reeves was deregistered in 2004 for performing obstetric procedures at Pambula and Bega hospitals despite being banned from obstetrics, and in September 2008 was been charged in relation to alleged sexual and indecent assaults and genital mutilation at Bega, Pambula and Richmond between 2001 and 2003 with investigations into other allegations continuing.

Media reports and the NSW Opposition continue to criticise the NSW Health Department for its inadequate procedures allowing Reeves to be hired in the Pambula area at all when he was already banned from obstetrics practice.

Medical career

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital

Reeves was first appointed as a visiting medical officer in obstetrics and gynaecology at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital on December 20, 1985. 35 complaints were made about him over a fifteen year period starting in June 1986 by other doctors, nurses and patients, and included complaints of bullying other staff and patients and failing to offer adequate pain relief. In 1995 two attending midwives and a paediatric registrar complained that Reeves had bullied a patient delivering a non-viable foetus, had not offered adequate pain relief and had declined their offers to resuscitate her. In May 1996 a patient of Reeves' at The Hills Private Hospital died of septicaemia after he refused antibiotics, and that hospital suspended his privileges as a medical officer there. The Hills Hospital also noted his aggressive conduct and observed that similar problems were known from both Hornsby Ku-ring-gai and Sydney Adventist Hospital. [cite news
last = Wallace
first = Natasha
url = http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/hospital-warned-board-of-butcher/2008/03/09/1204998283808.html
title=Hospital warned board of butcher
date = 2008-03-10
accessdate=2008-06-26
publisher=Fairfax Media
work=The Sydney Morning Herald
]

By January 1997 a hospital advisory committee had made an adverse finding about Reeves and a Professional Standards Committee handed down a decision in August placing limits on Reeves' practice in obstetrics. The hospital suspended him from the gynaecology clinic on December 14 2000 after midwives refused to work with him and his position was never restored.

Psychiatric reports dating from as early as 1996 and continuing until 2004 report that Reeves has been variously identified as having a personality disorder, narcissism and depression. [cite news
last = Wallace
first = Natasha
url = http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/inside-the-butcher-of-begas-head/2008/06/01/1212258623523.html
title = The Bega Butcher: a depressed, distrustful, volatile man
date = 2008-06-01
accessdate = 2008-06-26
work=The Sydney Morning Herald
publisher=Fairfax Media
]

Greater Southern Area Health Service

Reeves was hired as an obstetrician and gynaecologist by the Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS) in 2002, beginning work in April. Reeves' application for the position provided partial information about restrictions on his registration, but not the Professional Standards Committee's order that he not practice obstetrics and GSAHS did not verify with the Medical Board that Reeves was allowed to practice in the specialties he was hired for. The restriction on his practice was revealed during a reference check in April, but not acted on. [cite news
url = http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23701519-26103,00.html
title=File marked 'not to do obstetrics'
date=2008-05-15
accessdate=2008-06-27
work = The Australian
publisher = News Limited
] His hiring was promoted by local papers as a boon for women in the area.cite news
last = Weaver
first = Clair
coauthors = Carmel Melouney
title = Revealed: the Butcher of Bega
url=http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23264529-5006010,00.html
date=2008-06-24
accessdate=2008-06-26
work = The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
publisher = News Limited
]

By the end of 2002, complaints and memos were prepared about difficult working relationships between Reeves and staff at Pambula Hospital. In November, discussions between the Medical Board and GSAHS revealed that Reeves was not allowed to practice as an obstetrician, and as a result from November 14 Pambula Hospital did not provide obstetric services. In 2003 there were complaints that Reeves had provided obstetric services to a patient at Bega Hospital on January 3, and GSAHS became aware that, Reeves' undertaking to the contrary, he had not applied to the Board for a review of the restriction on his obstetric practice. On January 10 further complaints about Reeves' conduct towards other staff became known to Bega Hospital management, but as they were pursuing his unauthorised practice of obstetrics, these complaints about conduct were not pursued.

After the complaints about unauthorised obstetric practice at Bega Hospital, GSAHS continued to allow Reeves to practice as a gynaecologist, uncertain as to whether they had the power to suspend him. On February 18 2003, the Medical Board ordered that Reeves' ban from obstetric practice continue and on April 7 GSAHS notified Reeves of the forthcoming termination of his contract, although Reeves continued to provide gynaecological services up to July 11, the last day of his contract.

Reeves was struck from the register of doctors (forbidden to practice medicine) in 2004, on the grounds that he had breached the Medical Board's 1997 ban on his practicing obstetrics, and had thus been guilty of gross misconduct.

Jon Mortimer, the GSAHS Deputy Director of Medical Services, was suspended on full pay in May 2008 for failing to act on the information about Reeves' obstetrics ban revealed in the April 2002 reference check.

Media reports

The first public media report alleging further serious misconduct by Reeves' while employed by GSAHS was in February 17, 2008, in a broadcast of the "Sunday" programme on the Nine Network. Reeves' former patient Carolyn Dewaegeneire alleged that in 2002 Reeves had conducted a clitoridectomy rather than remove a small genital lesion, and had informed her that he was going to do so seconds before anaesthesia took effect. [cite episode
title = Butcher of Bega: Who Watches The Doctors?
url = http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/cover_stories/article_2372.asp?s=1
series = Sunday
serieslink = Sunday (TV program)
credits = Ross Coulthart (reporter) and Nick Farrow (producer)
network = Nine Network
airdate = 2008-02-17
] Expert witnesses in a earlier civil case surrounding this procedure noted that the procedure Reeves performed on Dewaegeneire was old-fashioned, that informed consent was not given and that Reeves should have sought a second opinion on her rare diagnosis.

The media began to report additional complaints by Reeves' patients in February 2008, such as Marilyn Hawkins' allegation that he both sexually assaulted her and botched her operation. [cite news
last = Wilson
first = Ashleigh
title = 'Butcher of Bega' betrayed me: victim
url = http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23327133-5006784,00.html
date = 2008-03-06
accessdate = 2008-06-26
publisher = News Limited
work = The Australian
] By February 25 private lobbying group the Medical Errors Action Group reported that they had complaints related to 185 separate incidents.cite news
last = Cresswell
first = Adam
url = http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23270107-1242,00.html
title = Outrage as banned doctor Graeme Stephen Reeves exposed
date = 2008-02-25
accessdate = 2008-06-26
work=The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
publisher=News Limited
] By February 26 Reeves, who had been living in Castle Hill, had gone into hiding. [cite news
last = Fife-Yeomans
first = Janet
coauthors = Kate Sikora
url = http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23277079-2,00.html
title = The 'Butcher of Bega' Graeme Reeves is in hiding
date = 2008-02-26
accessdate = 2008-06-26
work=The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
publisher=News Limited
]

Political response

In June 2008, the "Medical Practice Amendment Bill 2008" obliged doctors in New South Wales to report serious misconduct on the part of their colleagues, specifically intoxication while practising, sexual abuse while practising and large violations of professional standards of care. [cite news
url = http://www.6minutes.com.au/articles/z1/view.asp?id=174103
date = 2008-06-11
accessdate=2008-06-27
title = Mandatory misconduct reporting now law
last = Durack
first = Louise
publisher = 6minutes.com.au
]

Medical community response

The Medical Board stated that the allegations had not been raised at the time of his de-registration, and as Reeves was no longer allowed to practice, there was no further sanction that the Board was capable of making. [cite news
last = Ramachandran
first = Arjun
url = http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/02/27/1203788409524.html
date = 2008-02-27
accessdate = 2008-06-26
title = Medical Board defends action on 'mutilation doctor'
work=The Age
publisher = Fairfax Media
] In late February 2008 the NSW Department of Health established counselling services for former patients of Reeves. [cite press release
title = NSW Government offers support to former patients of Dr Reeves
publisher = New South Wales Government Department of Health
date = 2008-02-28
url = http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/news/2008/20080228_01.html
accessdate = 2008-06-26
] General practitioners in Bega complained that the press had created an unfair suspicion surrounding the local medical community and maintained that they had not been aware of any dissatisfaction with Reeves during his employment by GSAHS.cite web
publisher = Australian Doctor
url = http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/97/0c054e97.asp
date = 2008-03-28
accessdate = 2008-06-27
title = Collateral damage
]

Investigations of criminal activity

Police investigations and criminal charges

The NSW Police established Strike Force Tarella on February 27 2008, comprising 12 detectives from both the Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad and the far south coast local area command. By May, they were investigating deaths of ten babies and seven women under Reeves' care, with most of the babies classified as stillborn, which did not require a coronial inquiry into their deaths. [cite news
title = Police yet to interview 'Butcher of Bega'
url = http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23679389-662,00.html
date = 2008-05-11
accessdate = 2008-06-26
work = The Herald Sun
publisher = News Limited
]

In September 2008 police announced that they were laying 17 criminal charges against Reeves, relating to 10 alleged victims at Bega, Pambula and Richmond between 2001 and 2003. [cite news
last=Stapleton
first=John
title=Graeme Reeves charged with 17 offences against 10 women
url=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24323725-601,00.html
date=2008-09-10
accessdate=2008-09-10
work=The Australian
publisher=News Limited
] cite news
last = Welch
first = Dylan
url = http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/bega-butcher-denied-bail-on-sex-charges/2008/09/10/1220857637809.html
title = Bega Butcher denied bail on sex charges
date = 2008-09-11
accessdate = 2008-09-11
work = Sydney Morning Herald
publisher = Fairfax Media
coauthors = Arjun Ramachandran
] He was arrested the morning of September 10 and refused bail, to reappear in court in November. [cite news|last=Ramachandran|first=Arjun|title='Butcher of Bega' arrested over genital mutilation|url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/butcher-of-bega-arrested/2008/09/10/1220857586362.html|work=Sydney Morning Herald|publisher=Fairfax Media|date=2008-09-10|accessdate=2008-09-10]

Garling Commission

In May 2008 Reeves made a statement to a Special Commission of Inquiry into the public health system stating that he had worked illegally at the GSAHS hospitals because he felt his help was badly needed. [cite news|last=Wallace|first=Natasha|title=My help desperately needed: Reeves|url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/my-help-desperately-needed-reeves/2008/08/01/1217097533822.html|date=2008-08-02|accessdate=2008-08-06|work=The Sydney Morning Herald|publisher=Fairfax Media] He also expressed regret for his actions.cite news|last=Sikora|first=Kate|title=Butcher of Bega Graeme Reeves apologises|url=http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24107851-5006009,00.html|date=2008-08-01|accessdate=2008-08-06|work=The Daily Telegraph (Australia)|publisher=News Limited] The Commission, headed by Peter Garling, was convened in January 2008 and its scope is to investigate the standard of patient care in public hospitals. [cite pressrelease|title=Peter Garling SC to lead Special Commission of Inquiry|url=http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/news/2008/20080125_00.html|date=2008-01-25|accessdate=2008-08-06|publisher=NSW Government Department of Health]

On 31 July 2008, Garling handed down his findings on the Reeves case and concluded that his "intentional and calculated dishonesty" was the main reason he was employed by GSAHS. Garling recommended that the case be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The report also found that Jon Mortimer and Robert Arthurson of GSAHS should have carried out greater background checks of Reeves. [cite news|last=Hohenboken|first=Angus|title=Charges urged for 'Butcher of Bega' Graeme Reeves|url=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24110276-23289,00.html|work=The Australian|publisher=News Limited|date=2008-08-01|accessdate=2008-08-06]

Extortion attempt

In June 2008, three people were charged in Bega Local Court with an extortion attempt against an unnamed former colleague of Reeves'. They had threatened to make the connection between Reeves and the colleague public. [cite news
url = http://bega.yourguide.com.au/news/local/news/general/extortion-charge-laid/799061.aspx
title= Extortion charge laid
date = 2008-06-27
accessdate = 2008-06-27
work = Bega District News
]

NSW Health Department review

On May 2 2008, retired judge Deirdre O'Connor reported to the NSW Health Department on procedural aspects of Reeves' appointment and was satisfied that changes made to Health Department hiring policy since Reeve's appointment at Southern Area Health Service were sufficient to end the practice of doctors like him much earlier in future.cite paper
first = Deidre
last = O'Connor
title = Review of the appointment, management and termination of Dr Graeme Reeves as a visiting medical officer in the NSW public health system
publisher = NSW Department of Health
date = 2008-05-02
url = http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/resources/news/pdf/oconnor_2.pdf
format = PDF
accessdate = 2008-06-26
] The report contradicted Health Minister Reba Meagher's claims that the GSAHS had done no background checks on Reeves. The State Government was criticised for not releasing the report until May 28.cite news
last = Wallace
first = Natasha
title = Report into Bega Butcher released
date = 2008-05-28
accessdate=2008-06-26
work=The Sydney Morning Herald
publisher=Fairfax Media
url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/report-into-bega-butcher-released/2008/05/29/1211654187660.html
]

References


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