By James Tillman

MELBOURNE, Australia, June 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com)—At least 44 women have now been infected by Hepatitis C after attending Croydon Day Surgery, Victoria's only late-term abortion clinic, in north-eastern Melbourne.

Half of these cases can be definitively traced to the same strain infecting Dr. James Latham Peters, an anesthetist at the clinic.  Dr. Peters is under investigation by the Victoria Police and the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria; some say he may have deliberately infected the women.

"The more cases that we find, it becomes more and more difficult to explain this by accidental means," said Dr. John Carnie, Victoria's chief health officer.

In April LifeSiteNews.com reported that 12 women were infected with Hepatitis C following treatment by Dr. Peters between June 2008 and December 2009.  The state Department of Health had noticed a cluster of three Hepatitis C-infected women who had attended the clinic and found the others after further investigation.

The Health Department has since advised more than 1100 women treated at the clinic in 2008 and 2009 to be tested for Hepatitis C.  According to The Age, Dr. Carnie says that up to 3600 patients, going as far back as 2006, may need to be tested.

''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 said.

Hepatitis C is generally spread via blood, although it can also be sexually transmitted.  It can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer.  Although accidental needle stick injuries sometimes cause it to spread, Dr. Carnie has said it is hard to imagine that such injuries could explain the present outbreak.

"Needle stick injuries are one method of possible transmission," he said.  "It is difficult to identify how this could happen with more than, say, one or two patients."

In 1996, Dr. James Latham Peters pled guilty to 20 charges related to providing a two-year supply of painkillers to his wife, Julia Peters, was also found guilty of 41 charges.  Sources indicate that Croydon Day Surgery was aware of Dr. Peters' problems with the abuse of intravenous drugs.

Additionally, the Herald Sun reported, that just this year Dr. Peters was sentenced for possession of child pornography.

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand is also searching for 55 New Zealand women who were clients of Croydon Day Surgery between January 2006 and December 2009 to see if they are infected.

Croydon Day Surgery is part of Planned Parenthood of Australia Group.

Paula Shelton of Slater and Gordon law firm has said 30 women with Hepatitis C are considering mounting a class action suit against Dr. Peters.  She said that the women were devastated by the discovery of their infection.

"'You know, when you put your trust in someone going into surgery you don't expect this kind of thing to happen," said Shelton.

The class action might also target Croydon Day Surgery and the Medical Practitioners Board. 

"My concern about the board is that they were aware of potential problems with this particular doctor," Shelton said. "I believe there was some testing over a period of time and then he's just been let go and practised completely unrestricted."

Paula Shelton added that there might very well be more infections. "It would not surprise me if we ended up with, you know, 100 infections from this incident."

Women who attended Croydon Day Surgery from 2006 to 2009 should contact Victoria's Hepatitis C information line at 1300 365 677.

See related stories at LifeSiteNews.com:

Abortion Clinic Anesthetist Accused of Infecting 12 Women with Hepatitis C
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/apr/10041205.html