Peter Benton
Key information
Gender Male
Hair Color Black
Born 1965
Occupation Surgeon
Specialty General Surgery
Family Mae Benton (mother, deceased)
Jackie Robbins (sister)
Walter Robbins (brother-in-law)
Jessie Robbins (nephew, deceased)
Joanie Robbins (niece)
Steven Robbins (nephew)
Spouse Cleo Finch (wife)
Children Reese Benton (son, from Carla Reese)
Behind the scenes
Portrayer: Eriq La Salle
Episode 171
First episode 24 Hours
Last episode And in the End...

Dr. Peter Benton is a fictional character and surgeon for the first eight seasons of ER.

Character Biography

Peter Benton in the first few seasons is portrayed as the goal-oriented arrogant surgeon. He, at times, portrays an abrasive personality; shown repeatedly throughout treatment of interns and co-workers. He is typically ambitious but remains loyal as a mentor, friend, and strong advocate to John Carter following Carter's addiction to pain meds.

Peter Benton has a son, Reese, who was born premature, resulting in acute hearing loss. During a custody dispute with Reese’s mother, Carla, Peter learns Reese may not be his, but opts against a DNA test. Following Carla’s death, Peter battles for custody again with Reese’s stepfather, Roger. It is at this point Peter learns he is not Reese’s biological father. Nonetheless, Peter eventually wins custody but must cut back his working hours. When Romano cannot fulfill the request, Peter leaves County General hospital


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. Mae Benton dies, devastating him, and when Jeanie comforts him, they end up having an affair. In the second season, his affair with Jeanie ends soon after it starts. 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 friends 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.

Note: Their relationship would've lasted longer if Peter Benton's actor Eriq La Salle hadn't spoken up about how he was uncomfortable with the fact that his past relationships with black women hadn't gone well, but one with a white women had.

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 matter-of-factly answers, "he's at home with Cleo."


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 General

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 that creator Michael Crichton had died.

Season 15

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.