Doctor fights action over mother's death

The Sydney Morning Herald/March 6, 2013

A doctor who lives with a strict Christian-based religious group in northern NSW had several days to take his mother to hospital for potentially life-saving treatment before she died, a court has been told.

Dr Chris Maendel was a senior figure and resident doctor of the Bruderhof, an Amish-style community who live near Inverell, when in March 2010 his mother Irene unexpectedly collapsed on their property, Danthonia, while holidaying from the US. After diagnosing a possible stroke, a decision was taken by Dr Maendel and his father Jake - who was also on holiday - not to take her to a nearby hospital.

They instead administered repeated doses of morphine and the 170-strong flock took shifts to pray at her bedside. After six days, she died and was buried on Bruderhof land. Dr Maendel filled out her death certificate. Neither the police nor coroner were informed.

Irene Maendel

Collapsed on cult farmland: Irene Maendel.

Now, three years on, he is fighting accusations of professional misconduct in the NSW Medical Tribunal.

On Tuesday the tribunal received expert evidence from Margaret Gibbons, who said that Dr Maendel should have transported his mother to hospital within 30 minutes of her having been stabilised, adding he should also have advised his father that he did not know exactly what was unfolding.

During cross-examination, Dr Gibbons was highly critical of Dr Maendel's ongoing failure to review his original decision - given evidence which demonstrated Mrs Maendel was frequently conscious and at times asking questions such as ''what happened to me?''

The tribunal heard from one of two nurses who have been ordered before a separate Nursing and Midwifery Professional Standards Committee hearing, over the same death, in May. Andrew Blough, a Bruderhof member and registered onsite nurse, said he did not personally witness any significant signs of consciousness from Mrs Maendel. When asked if there was anything he might have done differently if he had, Mr Blough replied: ''I don't believe so.''

The hearing continues.

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