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Dr. Peter Benton is a fictional character that was a regular on the television series ER for its first eight seasons and appeared in two episodes of the show's final season. He was played by Eriq La Salle.
He was often portrayed as arrogant and irritable, but is nevertheless an exceptionally talented surgeon who is passionate about medicine.
It is also revealed that he and fellow emergency room physician Mark Greene had attended medical school together.
Peter's last appearance as a series regular was in the Season 8 episode "I'll Be Home For Christmas".
Eriq La Salle's removal from the opening credits as an ongoing regular was in the 11th episode of season 8; however, he appeared in the credits of the 15th episode of season 8, in which he is shown talking to Elizabeth Corday & the 21st episode in which he appears at Mark Greene's funeral. He also appears later in season 15.
Peter was first introduced in the pilot as a second year surgical resident. When all the attending surgeons are busy in other surgeries, he decides to operate without supervision to control a bleeding aneurysm and keep a man alive until a qualified surgeon is available.
Although he does this technically against regulations, he is supported after the fact by attending physician David Morgenstern.
Family and FriendsEdit
Jackie and Peter's MotherEdit
In the first season, it is revealed that Peter's mother has had a stroke and is mostly being cared for by his sister Jackie, who wants to move her into an assisted living facility (an option to which Peter is strongly opposed).
One night when Peter is watching his mother in Jackie's home, she falls down the stairs and breaks her hip.
In the first season, Peter meets Jeanie Boulet, (a married Physician Assistant) at the hospital. Impressed, he hires her to work with his mother as a physical therapist. Benton's mother dies, devastating him, and when Jeanie comforts him, they end up having an affair.
In the second season, his affair with Jeanie ends.
Jeanie later separates from her husband Al & learns that he contracted HIV from an affair, and furthermore that he passed the disease on to her; however, Jeanie doesn't pass the virus to Peter.
In the third season, Peter becomes involved with a former girlfriend, Carla Reese, who soon becomes pregnant. She later gives birth to a son, Reese Benton, who is born prematurely.
It is later discovered that (possibly from complications from Reese's prematurity or his NICU treatment), Reese is deaf.
At first, Peter has difficulty accepting that his son is deaf and looks into surgeries to restore his ability to hear, but later makes his peace with the way Reese is. He and Carla teach him to communicate through sign language.
Later, Carla begins a new relationship with a man named Roger McGrath and eventually marries him.
At the end of the fifth season, Carla tells Peter about her new marriage to Roger and that she will be taking Reese with them to Roger's new job in Germany.
At the beginning of the eighth season, the legal proceedings have begun over Peter's refusal to agree to Carla's demands. Carla shocks Peter by telling him that he may not be Reese's father.
Peter takes a DNA test to determine whether or not Carla's suspicions are true, but he chooses not to receive the results and decides that he will be Reese's father regardless of biology.
Carla does not respond to Peter's pleas to end the legal fight, but on Christmas Eve, she shows up angrily at the hospital with Reese & sarcastically thanks him for ruining her and Roger's lives because Roger's boss has decided not to give the promotion to Germany due to the time he spent in court and they will have to remain in Chicago.
Peter bluntly tells her that he is sorry about the job, but is not sorry that Reese will remain in the same city as him.
In the seventh season, Carla shows up anew to openly flirt with Peter which causes problems between him & new girlfriend Cleo Finch. She lies to Roger about Peter hitting on her to the point where Roger and Peter have an altercation in the ER.
Early in the eighth season, Carla is killed in a car accident. Peter takes Reese into his full custody, but when Roger continues to appeal for time with him Peter insists that Roger move on with his life and stay away.
Roger sues Peter for custody of Reese & his lawyers force Peter to address the fact that he may not be Reese's biological father. Peter takes another paternity test and this time learns the truth; he is not Reese's biological father. Roger's lawyer makes issue of the long hours Peter's job demands, whereas Roger works from home and commands his own schedule.
During court, Peter perjures himself on the witness stand and proclaims that he has been given a new schedule with reduced working hours at County General Hospital. Peter later goes to his supervisor, Dr. Robert Romano, and asks for such a schedule, but Romano cannot offer only daytime hours.
Peter hands in his resignation and goes to the out-of-town clinic where girlfriend Cleo Finch now works to try to get a job there. He is successful and gets the hours he had promised the judge & is awarded sole custody of Reese with Roger receiving visitation rights.
When a saddened Roger brings Reese's Christmas presents to the hospital later that day, Peter (knowing that Roger is important to Reese), tells Roger to come to his and Cleo's home on Christmas Day and give the presents to Reese himself. He does tell Roger he is doing this for Reese's sake & both men tacitly acknowledge Peter has won.
When British surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Corday starts work at County General Hospital, she is quickly attracted to Benton, though he initially disregards her attentions.
At length, Elizabeth tells him she believes that he does not want to pursue a relationship with her because of their racial difference, and Benton finally grudgingly admits to her that "I do have a problem dating white women."
Professionally, Peter and Corday attempt to outdo each other several times, and both are eventually given the opportunity to work with Dr. Robert Romano.
Later in the year, he assists on a surgery performed by his mentor Dr. David Morgenstern. Morgenstern (who has been somewhat hesitant about surgery following his heart attack) makes a serious mistake that endangers the patient's life. Peter shoves him out of the way to take over the operation with Elizabeth walking in too late to see Morgenstern's mistake, but witnessing Benton's actions toward Morgenstern.
Peter is suspended and comes close to losing his job before Morgenstern finally comes forward with the videotape of the operation, which exonerates his former student. Morgenstern later resigns from the hospital and a distraught Peter begins an affair with Elizabeth.
They remain together through much of the following two years, although their relationship eventually begins to suffer due to Peter's needing to spend more time attending to Reese.
Elizabeth helps him realize that their romance isn't going anywhere and they end their affair, but they remain close friends and colleagues.
However, their friendship is troubled when Elizabeth approaches the hospital staff with the idea of a trauma surgical fellowship. Peter withdraws his tentative commitment to Romano's cardiothoracic fellowship (which would be extremely time-consuming) and campaigns for and is granted the trauma fellowship.
Elizabeth feels betrayed by Peter and (wishing to stay at County), she takes Romano's cardiothoracic fellowship offer.
In the sixth season, Peter begins dating ER pediatrician, Dr. Cleo Finch.
Their relationship was stormy because of Peter's ex-girlfriend Carla, but in the eighth season, they leave Chicago along with Peter's son Reese to start a new life. Peter and Cleo transfer to a different hospital.
In the season 15 episode "Old Times," Peter is seen wearing a wedding ring, and it is assumed he and Cleo are now married. Later in the episode, as Carter awakes from surgery, he asks Peter who is watching Reese and Pater matter-of-factly answers, "he's at home with Cleo."
In the pilot episode, John Carter is introduced as a third-year medical student on his ER rotation. He is assigned to Peter, who proceeds to give Carter a hard time.
They seldom get along and their personalities clash on many occasions. Benton is more ambitious and focused on surgery whereas Carter is more compassionate and willing to spend time with patients, a trait that "drove [Benton] crazy" as he put it to Cleo, although he considered Carter to be a talented and smart doctor.
In the third season, Benton develops appendicitis and Carter operates on him. However, Carter eventually decides to leave surgery for emergency medicine, a decision that caused him to clash with Benton.
Nonetheless, the two have reconciled and (despite the fact that they have interacted less since Carter's transition to emergency medicine), formed a deep friendship.
In the sixth season, Peter was visibly concerned about Carter after he was stabbed by a schizophrenic patient, and eventually operates on him along with Dr. Anspaugh. During the surgery, Benton has become protective of Carter, and expresses reluctance to leave his former protégé for another patient.
Soon after (upon hearing Carter becoming addicted to painkillers), he refuses to watch Carter self-destruct and convinces him to enter rehab.
In Season 8, before Dr. Benton departs County General, his final farewell is to Carter. As a going-away present, Carter hands him a train token; it is the same one Benton had given him shortly after he started in the ER, telling him to use it for a trip home if he thought he did not belong there.
In Season 15, Peter reunited with Carter when he was in need of a kidney transplant. Benton supervises the operation at the hospital where he works and makes sure that his old friend and colleague gets the best medical support.
As Peter knew that Carter has gone to Africa for the past four years, it is likely that both doctors kept in limited contact with each other while working at different hospitals.
Dr. Romano eventually offers Peter an attending trauma surgeon position, but when a Medicare patient needs a surgery that Romano refuses to allow to be performed, Peter calls social services and informs them of the refusal of care.
Romano intercepts the patient as social services arrives & performs the surgery, but he is enraged at Peter for calling them. He then retracts the idea of an attending trauma surgeon, explaining to Peter that the fines social services and Medicare inflicted on the hospital roughly equal what Peter's yearly salary would have been.
Romano then offers Peter a per diem surgical position with reduced benefits and more difficult scheduling, but he refuses. Romano also uses his considerable influence to blacklist Benton throughout the medical community, making it impossible for Peter to find a job in Chicago.
Corday finds a new job for Peter in Philadelphia, but Carla will not continue joint custody of Reese if Peter leaves town (citing his resistance to her and Roger's plans to move to Germany the year before).
Peter is then forced to go to Romano and accept the per diem position. After the court battle between Roger and himself, he is forced to move away from County to work better hours in another hospital in order to gain custody of Reese.
In his last surgery at County, he miraculously saves a six-year-old victim of a shooting accident.
After County GeneralEdit
After leaving the series, Peter was seen a few more times. The first time was when he was passing the torch to Dr. Corday and she told him that her marriage to Benton's friend and colleague Dr. Mark Greene was in trouble.
His next appearance was at the funeral of Dr. Greene.
Peter appears in a photo as part of a slideshow at Dr. Carter's farewell party and is heard in a voiceover memory as Carter leaves the ER for the last time in the 11th season finale.
Eriq La Salle made an uncredited appearance in the opening of "Heal Thyself" to tell the audience of the death of the show's creator Michael Crichton.
During the final season of ER, at the end of the episode "The Book of Abby", long-serving nurse Haleh Adams shows the departing Abby Lockhart a closet wall where all the past doctors and employees have put their locker name tags.
Amongst them, the tag "Benton" can be seen.
He returns in the 19th episode of the 15th (final) season of ER in the episode "Old Times" where he visits his old friend and former student John Carter who is awaiting a kidney transplant.
It is revealed that Peter has left private practice for a surgical attending position at Northwestern University Hospital. He is seen wearing a wedding ring, so it's assumed he has married Cleo Finch.
In the series finale, Peter goes to Carter's opening of his new hospital with Reese. He also goes to the afterparty with Carter, Susan Lewis and Kerry Weaver and meets Elizabeth Corday and Rachel Greene. In a conversation, he reveals that he and Cleo are still together.
Medical Titles at County GeneralEdit
- Surgical Resident (1994-1999)
- Surgical Fellow (1999-2000)
- Surgical Attending (2000-2001)