A Melbourne anaesthetist who used a needle on himself before injecting 55 pregnant women with hepatitis C has failed in his bid to overturn a 14-year jail term by arguing the disease is not that serious.
James Latham Peters intentionally infected the women at the Croydon Day Surgery between June and November 2009 after stealing syringes of fentanyl from the operating theatre, injecting himself and then using the same syringes to inject patients.
Fifty-five women were infected with hepatitis C and experienced a range of symptoms. In victim impact statements, some victims described being "really sick for about eight weeks", body aches, liver pain, constipation, lethargy, loss of vision and no certainty of a cure.
Some endured lengthy treatments that resulted in hair loss, vomiting, nausea, memory loss and 30kg weight loss, according to court documents.
Peters was jailed for 14 years with a minimum, non-parole period of 10 years.
The victims were awarded a share of almost $14 million in compensation in 2014 but today they were traumatised again as Peters attempted to downplay the seriousness of his offending.
In the Victorian Court of Appeal, he argued new treatment options for hepatitis C have become available since he intentionally infected the pregnant women and therefore his crimes did not constitute "serious injury".
But it was an argument that Court of Appeal judges rejected.
"In our opinion … it was open to find that, when (Peters) infected each complainant with hepatitis C virus, he injured her because, at that point, the complainant had become infected with the virus," the judgment read.
"There is no requirement that outward symptoms of the disease be manifest at that point. It would be absurd if it were otherwise. It would be necessary to wait until each complainant developed symptoms, perhaps many years later, in order to bring charges in respect of that complainant, even though the evidence showed the significant likelihood that such symptoms would one day present themselves.
"The logic of the applicant's argument would appear to suggest that this was so, even if it could be said that the development of symptoms was inevitable. No principled basis for such an approach was suggested and we can think of none ourselves.
"For the same reason, the fact that it can now be said of some complainants that they will not develop symptoms cannot alter the fact that, when they were infected, they suffered injury.
"Put differently, those complainants recovered from the injury. They are in no different position in that respect from the victim of a physical injury whose wounds have healed or whose broken bones have mended."
A legal source involved in the original trial told The Age newspaper Peters was a "vile human with no regard for anyone".
"So now he wants to pile on the grief and create more misery for these women. The prospect of another trial will devastate them and he's already tried to have his sentence reduced," the source said.