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Australia: Hepatitis Infections Blamed on Incompetent Medical Board

February 22, 2013

Chief Crown Prosecutor Gavin Silbert, S.C., declared in Victoria's Supreme Court that the board regulating Victoria medical practitioners was responsible for the transmission of hepatitis C to 55 women from 2008 to 2009 because the board failed to monitor drug-addicted anesthetist James Latham Peters.

The board had been responsible for supervising Peters since 1996, when his license to practice medicine was almost suspended because of his drug use. Peters, a convicted addict with a history of fentanyl and pethidine use, did not inform the board when he contracted hepatitis C in 1997, according to Silbert. However, since the health department was notified of Peters' infection with hepatitis C, the medical practitioners board should have been aware of the risk Peters presented to patients. Silbert's statements were part of a plea hearing conducted by Justice Terry Forrest.

Peters transmitted the virus to women in Croydon Day Surgery by injecting himself with part of the dose in pre-filled syringes of the anesthetic fentanyl and then administering the remaining dose to female patients before operations. Silbert said up to 10 additional Croydon Day Surgery patients also contracted hepatitis C from Peters, but they refused to testify because they were at the clinic to have pregnancy terminations and did not want to tell their partners. Silbert reported three similar "clusters" of hepatitis transmission among medical patients in Spain from 1988 to 1997 and in the United States and Denver, Colo. in 2012.

Peters, who is now "de-registered," pleaded guilty to 55 counts of "negligently causing serious injury" to the women, who will have to live with the long-term risks of hepatitis C infection for the rest of their lives.

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Excerpted from:
The Age (Melbourne)
02.11.2013; Andrea Petrie

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