Skip to comments.Blood Trail (UK): Politicians may face criminal charges over infected blood
Posted on 08/19/2002 9:02:15 AM PDT by BLOODHOUND (askel5)
Politicians may face criminal charges over infected blood.
BY LUCY JOHNSTON
FORMER Tory and Labour ministers could face criminal charges over the use of contaminated blood in the NHS which infected thousands with HIV and hepatitis C.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is to examine evidence which reveals key health and Treasury officials across two decades ignored repeated warnings that blood products used in the UK were putting lives at risk.
Terence Grange, chairman of ACPOs personal crime division, has written to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if there is enough evidence for a criminal prosecution.
Thousands of people received contaminated blood or blood products from the Seventies until the early Nineties.
The scandal has been described as the worst medical treatment disaster in the NHSs history.
So far up to 2,000 have died and another 4,000 infected or dying. Pregnant women and individuals undergoing operations were among those given infected blood.
But most at risk were haemophiliacs who were repeatedly injected with unsafe imported blood-clotting products.
One victim was Colette Wintle, 43, from Tonbridge Wells, Kent, who was infected with hepatitis B and C in 1982 from blood products used to treat her haemophilia.
The former nurse said: I am in constant pain and often exhausted. I am terrified about my future. I have the most lethal and difficult-to-treat type of hepatitis C.
Mr Granges move follows the convictions of former health ministers in Italy, France and Japan. Last night he said: This could well be a scandal. If the allegations in the documents are true we may have to involve criminal law.
The new legal move comes as the Government orders hospitals to import US blood supplies to ensure children under six are not infected with CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.
Furious health campaigners say American blood has an appalling contamination record and point to recent evidence of US safety violations.
Mr Grange will examine Government memos, internal blood company documents and secret reports from the Governments Public Health Service Laboratory which reveal UK health officials have long ignored warnings that blood products were dangerous. Some of these documents have been seen by the Sunday Express.
One, dated May 1983, from the PHSL to the Health Department, advised immediate withdrawal of all US blood products because they had caused three HIV infections in haemophiliacs. They never were.
ANOTHER is a letter from American hepatitis expert to the Government blood products Laboratory, dated July 1975. It warned US blood was taken high-risk groups such as prisoners and skid-row derelicts and was extraordinarily hazardous.
The letter stated the hepatitis infection rate from this blood was up to 90 per cent. Another letter dated July 1981, from the Department of Health to a senior member of the Treasury expressed concern because of the hepatitis risk.
Carol Grayson from Haemophilia Action UK, said: Successive Governments have not ensured blood products are safe. We have no option but to seek a criminal investigation.
Peter Mossman, a campaigner and victim added: We have met health ministers over the years but none have given us answers. We have no alternative.
In the past there have been several moves to compensate victims but nobody has accepted liability. In 1987, former Labour health minister Lord Owen asked for an investigation but was told his files had been pulped.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: The technology to make blood products free from HIV and hepatitis C was not available until the mid-Eighties. As soon as it was we introduced it.
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