The Victorian Supreme Court has heard the failure of the Medical Practitioners Board to stop a drug-addicted anaesthetist from practising medicine was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Former doctor 55 women with the potentially fatal disease hepatitis C between June 2008 and November 2009.

The pre-sentence hearing was told that he was hopelessly addicted to Fentanyl, a drug commonly used in procedures at the Croydon Day Surgery where he worked.

The court heard the Medical Practitioners Board ordered drug screening by Melbourne Pathology and 225 urine samples were tested between January 20, 2001 and November 19, 2009.

However they were not tested for Fentanyl, his drug of choice.

The chief prosecutor, Gavin Silbert, told the court the Medical Practitioners Board knew of his addiction but did not know he had Hepatitis C, despite the fact the health board had been informed in 1997.

Mr Silbert said it was a catastrophe waiting to happen and told the court the medical board's monitoring of Peters was incompetent and relied solely on the word of a drug addict.

The court heard drug addiction in medical practitioners is higher than average and in anaesthetists even higher.

Peters was involved in a program designed to help drug-addicted doctors.

Mr Silbert said while an honourable program, it only took one doctor to fall through the cracks to create a public health disaster.

"James Peters was that doctor," he said.

The court heard the disease is a "ticking time bomb" and the infected women infected will have to wait until 2050 to discover if they will develop the related fatal conditions, such as liver cancer.

Mr Silbert told the court many of the 55 women have not told their partners they had an abortion or that they have contracted hepatitis C.

The court heard another 10 patients from the clinic refused speak to police, because they did not want their partners to know.

There have only been three other similar cases - two in the United States and one in Spain.

Life sentence

Women who contracted the disease told the court of the physical and emotional effect the disease has had on their lives.

In victim impact statements read in court, they described how the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy had left them with a life sentence and the stigma of having a disease more commonly associated with drug addicts.

Many of the women said their marriages had been ruined and they lived in fear of infecting their children.

 

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