Hepatitis C investigations intensify as number of women infected by doctor rises

In recent news 12 women had been infected with the Hepatitis C virus allegedly from an anaesthetist Dr James Latham Peters, practising at an abortion clinic, Croydon Day Surgery. As the investigations continue the number of infected women has risen to 44.

The Department of Health has now announced a more detailed and intensive look into the matter and will be testing up to 3,600 women who had attended the clinic since 2006. Until now around 1,100 former patients have been tracked down and of the 746 test results 32 have been positive.

The doctor in question is also facing investigations from the Victorian Police and the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria after genetics tests revealed that the hepatitis C strain infecting him is the same as in 22 of these women.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said in a statement, “It is difficult to know exactly what went on in that clinic, but we are diligently providing full support to Victoria Police, to the Medical Practitioners Board, but most importantly to those women…This is not about system failure, this is about the appalling, totally inappropriate behaviour of one particular person.”

At present medical treatment and counselling was given to all the affected women said Victoria's chief health officer, Dr John Carnie and more women who were exposed are urged to come forth. “The more cases that we find, it becomes more and more difficult to explain this by accidental means,” Dr Carnie said.

Dr. Carnie believes that these patients had been infected in early 2008, but added: “As we go back further to 2007 and earlier, if we don't get any positives then we could be sure that the risk was confined to 2008 and 2009.” He added that it would be some months before concrete results of the tests could be obtained.

At present Dr. Peters is suspended by the Medical Practitioners Board. He has a past history of drug convictions and possessing pornographic images of children. In 1996 he had forged over 100 prescriptions of the drug pethidine.

Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan assured that a task force is set up to investigate the matter. “As this will be a long and involved investigation, we ask for the patience and assistance of the community - especially the families, friends and loved ones of those who have been affected by the case… Victoria Police is aware of the concerns in the community and we want to assure the public we are working to ensure that any criminal behaviour will be uncovered and appropriately dealt with,” he said.

Slater and Gordon medical lawyer Paula Shelton is acting for 30 women who have been infected. She said that these women are aged between 20 to 40 and at the prime of their lives. She said, “It is devastating for them…They can't believe they've been diagnosed with something that can be a chronic disease…They've been through the trauma of having this procedure in the first place and now they are facing a serious health problem as a result.” She said 30 women are considering mounting a class action against Dr Peters and the clinic. She added that, “It would not surprise me if we ended up with, you know, 100 infections from this incident.” Since Dr. Peters was allowed to continue to practice even after his run-ins with the law before, Shelton says the Medical Practitioners Board may also be brought to court. She said, “My concern about the board is that they were aware of potential problems with this particular doctor. My information is that they identified him as being drug dependent. They put him through a program to assist him with that. I believe there was some testing over a period of time and then he's just been let go and practised completely unrestricted.”

Women who had procedures at Croydon Day Surgery from 2006 to 2009 should contact the hepatitis C information line: 1300 365 677.

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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Comments

  1. Rita Joseph Rita Joseph Australia says:

    The Croydon late term abortion clinic should have been closed down immediately this breach in infection control procedures came to light.

    It is not surprising that a so-called health facility that offers late-term abortion attracts this unscrupulous kind of “doctor”.  Any doctor that can participate in the intentional killing of children just before they are ready to be born is certainly capable of other “appalling, totally inappropriate behaviour”.

    The dregs of the medical profession continue to apostasize the foundation principle of good medicine “Do no harm”. They refuse to acknowledge the truth that they have a duty of care to two patients, the mother and her unborn child at risk of abortion.  Even at the mother’s request, genuine doctors will do no deliberate lethal harm to any child before or after birth.  

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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