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Doctor faces charges on 162 counts for passing Hep C to 49 women

James Latham Peters, an anesthesiologist at the Melbourne clinic, faces 54 counts each of conduct endangering life, negligently causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury.

An Australian doctor has been charged over allegations he infected nearly 50 women with hepatitis C. The doctor was charged Friday with endangering his patients' lives who visited his abortion clinic in Melbourne.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne, infectious, viral disease that is caused by a hepatotropic virus called Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection can cause liver inflammation that is often asymptomatic, but ensuing chronic hepatitis can result later in cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Medic charged for spreading Hepatitis C
James Latham Peters, 61, who worked as an anesthesiologist at the Melbourne clinic, faces 54 counts each of conduct endangering life, negligently causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury.

On Friday, Peters appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, where he reportedly sat in the prison dock wearing slacks and a business shirt but no jacket or tie

The 162 offences are alleged to have taken place at the Croydon Day Surgery between 2008 and 2009.

Released on bail
On Friday, Peters appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, where he reportedly sat in the prison dock wearing slacks and a business shirt but no jacket or tie.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Jelena Popovic released Peters on 250,000 Australian dollars ($267,000) bail but ordered him to adhere to several conditions, including the surrender of his passport and not undertaking any work in medical field, either paid or unpaid.

Peters must also not contact staff medical centres, including the Croydon Day Surgery, St Albans Endoscopy Centre and Box Hill Hospital.

He will re-appear in court on September 30.

Outbreak of hep C

The medic’s arrest came after a year-long investigation into an outbreak of the blood-borne disease hepatitis C in early 2010. After testing more than 4,000 of Peters' patients during their investigation, authorities found that 49 women who had the infection had been treated at the same Melbourne clinic between 2008 and 2009.

Detectives from Taskforce Clays, established at the request of Victoria's health department, arrested Peters last year in April. The anesthesiologist had his registration suspended in February 2010.

Victoria police declined to comment on how they believe the disease was transmitted. But a spokesman for the Victoria state Department of Health said officials with the department closely investigated all the infection control procedures at the clinic and didn't find any problems with them.

"That's precisely why, back in early last year, we referred these matters to the police for further investigation — because our investigation could find no plausible reason as to why the infection took place," Bram Alexander, spokesman for Victoria's health department, said.

Women who received care at the Croydon clinic between 2008 and 2009 and who have not been tested are advised to contact the health department for testing, police officials said Friday.