Lawsuit over hepatitis C infections contracted from Doctor

Nearly 30 women got infected with Hepatitis C virus due to a breach in infection prevention protocols by an anaesthetist at a late-term abortion clinic. The incidents occurred at the Croydon Day Surgery in Melbourne's eastern suburbs during an 18-month period when James Latham Peters was working as an anaesthetist. The issue had come to light in the last few weeks. Now a multi million dollar lawsuit against the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria on behalf of the allegedly infected women is being planned.

Law firm Slater & Gordon is already taking civil action on behalf of seven of the infected women. Personal injury lawyer Paula Shelton believes that compensation could be sought from the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria on grounds that it allowed Dr. Peters to resume practice after a previous discrepancy. Dr. Peters had earlier received a suspended jail sentence for writing about 100 stolen pethidine prescriptions for himself and his wife. Ms Shelton said, “There are reports he was identified as a drug-dependent doctor, put through a program by the Medical Practitioners Board, monitored for a period of time and then permitted to practice unrestricted -- I think that is very concerning.” She feels that her clients have a good chance of getting compensated for the pain, suffering and financial loss that they incurred. She added, “This could not have happened if normal infection-control procedures had been used… There must be a very serious breach of basic medical standards for this to have happened.”

“I've been contacted by a number of women, some of those who are part of that 12, some who are in the very difficult period of waiting for their test results…There are also now four women who have had confirmation that they had hepatitis C and that's in the space of about a week, so it's very concerning…Sadly I think it's almost inevitable that there will be further women who are infected…This is a situation where there are a large number of women coming through the clinic. To know of an initial 12 and then in a very short space of time to see another four suggests to me that there is a lot of potential for further infections,” she concluded.

At present the Victorian police are also investigating the matter as to how the infections came about. They are investigating whether this was an act of crime or negligence. Genetic tests are being conducted to link the events. Dr. Peters’ registration was suspended this February.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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