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SA govt urge chemotherapy inquest to go on

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May 18, 2018

Andrew Knox has called a legal challenge to stop an SA inquest "heartless legal tactics".

The South Australian government will support the state coroner's power to investigate the deaths of four cancer patients who were underdosed with chemotherapy.

Some doctors involved in the inquiry have argued Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel doesn't have the necessary jurisdiction to conduct an inquest.

Since mid-2016, Mr Schapel has been looking into the deaths of leukaemia patients Christopher McRae, Bronte Higham, Carol Bairnsfather and Johanna Pinxteren.

All four were among 10 patients who were underdosed during their chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital or Flinders Medical Centre between July 2014 and January 2015.

On Thursday, Daryl Trim QC, representing a number of doctors, said the deaths of Ms Pinxteren and Mr McRae were not reportable to the coroner because they could not be directly linked to the underdosage.

The Coroner's Act outlines a specific set of circumstances which qualify a death as reportable, but Mr Trim argued the two deaths did not fit into any of the categories.

He said the other two deaths were reportable, but should not be investigated because the coroner "cannot disjoin the inquest".

A representative for the Crown said the Director of Public Prosecutions had not yet formed a position on the matter, but Health Minister Stephen Wade has since indicated the government wants the inquest to continue.

Andrew Knox, one of the patients underdosed, branded the legal challenge "heartless legal tactics" but said he was encouraged by the government's decision.

"The minister has instructed the crown lawyers to support the submissions that the coroner does have jurisdiction," he said.

The Crown is expected to formally outline its position to the coroner on Wednesday, but Mr Schapel is likely to take some time to hand down a ruling.

Either way, the matter could then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

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