– A drug-addicted former doctor has pleaded guilty to infecting 55 women with Hepatitis C at an abortion clinic in Melbourne’s east.

In Victoria’s Supreme Court on Friday, former anaesthetist James Latham Peters pleaded guilty to 55 counts of negligently causing serious injury to the women by infecting them with the virus in 2008 and 2009.

Peters injected himself with pre-filled syringes of fentanyl – an opioid used in general anaesthesia – in theatre at Croydon Day Surgery, before administering the remaining drug to the patients as they underwent pregnancy terminations.

He was aware he had the virus for more than 10 years.

Several of his victims were in court and wept as all 55 counts – and each of their names and the dates he infected them – were read out during the hearing.

Justice Paul Coghlan described the victims in the case as “a group of the most highly innocent people you could ever come across” as he suppressed their names from publication.

Peters was suspended  by the Medical Practitioners Board – in addition to being charged by police – several times over his drug use.

He admitted  to the medical board in 1995 that he had abuse fentanyl and pethidine, obtained by forging prescriptions and also faced criminal charges, including several of failing to give notice that a patient was drug dependent and obtaining a drug of dependence by forging prescriptions.

He was convicted and received community-based orders and two months’ jail that was wholly suspended.

In July, 1996, he was also charged with multiple counts of aiding and abetting another person to forge a prescription for drugs, and for being in possession of a drug of dependence, using a drug of dependence and introducing a drug into the body of another. He was again convicted and released on a community-based order.

He was ordered to undergo assessment for a drug addiction, submit to medical, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment and be drug-tested as part of his conditions.

The medical board also suspended him but he returned to work at Box Hill Hospital in 1997..

He tested positive for hepatitis C – a disease that must be notified to the health department – the same year.

Then in December 2003, Peters admitted to taking fentanyl for his own use before he took long-service leave and was permitted to return to work at the Croydon Day Clinic a year later under conditions imposed by the medical board.

An Australian Medical Association audit of the Victorian Doctors Health Program – established to treat drug-addicted doctors – warned that Peter’s case “was clearly one of concern. There are major current stressors for this man and his relapse appears to have been the result of the death of his wife,” it said.

Peters was suspended by the medical board again in February 2010 after he was placed under investigation by detectives from Taskforce Clays, set up by Victoria Police to investigate how so many female patients at the clinic contracted the disease.

He pleaded guilty to having 113 images of child pornography on his computer and was sentenced in March 2010 to an 18-month community-based order. He was ordered to comply with supervision, treatment and assessment conditions.

Peters was bailed to appear at a pre-sentence plea hearing in February – Andrea Petrie


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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