London: An Indian doctor on deputation in Britain has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for manslaughter after wrongly diagnosing a patient who later died. Bala Kovvali, 64, was found guilty of "criminal negligence" for the "wholly preventable death" of Andre Fellows in June, 2009, at Sheffield Crown Court, on Wednesday.
Kovvali ignored the classic signs of diabetes-related poisonous acids building up in 42-year-old Fellows and diagnosed him as "depressed with a headache". A test would have alerted the doctor to raised blood-sugar levels and it is "virtually certain" Fellows would have survived with an insulin injection and rehydration, the court was told.
"It was criminal negligence and a wholly preventable death followed," said Judge Roger Keen. You have devoted your working life to caring for others.
I have seen glowing references as to your competence, empathy and thoughtfulness. It is a tragedy for you that this brought about an end to your career, destroyed your good character and your ability to work in this country. However, the nature of your offending is too serious for anything other than a custodial sentence," the judge said.
According to a Daily Mail report, Kovvali was based in India but flew to Britain to work every summer for two or three months for the UK-wide doctors' deputising service Primecare.
He qualified as a doctor in India in 1973, completed his training before becoming a general practitioner and was based in Sheffield between 1981 and 1988. He was arrested in the US in 2012 and extradited after a Sheffield coroner had adjourned an inquest into Fellows' death for police investigations.
Kovvali admitted causing the death of Fellows by gross negligence in failing to carry out an adequate clinical assessment, failing to send the patient to hospital as an emergency when he paid him a home visit as a locum and failing to diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis from which he died.
Prosecutor Michael Burrows said, Fellows, who lived with his family in Handsworth, Sheffield, had no medical history of diabetes but suffered from anxiety and depression. Kovvali's defence lawyer said the father of two had "misdirected" himself.
He had a particular interest in mental health matters and coupled with Fellows not taking his medication it led him to rule out diabetes as a risk factor, his lawyer said.