Weekly Roundup: 5th September: The Contaminated Blood Scandal

The Memo Landing Page.png

The Contaminated Blood Scandal

Charity Agasaro

“They want answers, and they want access to all the relevant documents. They hope that Sir Brian Langstaff issues a report saying that he agrees with the co-participants who feel that the government let them down. They want answers and justice.” – Emma Jones, Human Rights partner at Leigh Day.

In the 1970s and 80s, thousands of people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders contracted HIV or hepatitis C through NHS treatments. New medication from the US (factor VIII or IX), was made from pooled blood plasma collected from paid donors, some of which was donated by people from high-risk groups. At the time, research on Hepatitis was at its early stages, and HIV had not yet been diagnosed. Over the years, more than 2,400 people have died due to this contamination.

Initially, the government set up funding initiatives to support the victims. However, there was no ‘admission of liability’ or compensation for those affected and their families. In 2018, an inquiry began to analyse the evidence provided by individuals who were affected by the contamination. After 40 years of activism, survivors and partners of victims that lost their lives will receive interim compensation of £100,000 each. Victims of this disaster see this initiative as a step that’s been ‘a long time coming’ but maintain that it cannot erase the ‘trauma and loss’ that they have experienced.

Lawyers from firms such as Leigh Day working on this case are asking NHS England and Public Health Wales to create ‘nationwide screening programs.’ This appeal came after the Department of Health published statistics showing that 28,000 people who received contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 80s may be living with the consequences of the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) without their knowledge. With new and effective treatments available, they argue that these programs will save lives. In addition, as noted by Emma Jones, the lawyers are working to ensure that there are systems in place to keep the over 350 co-participants up to date with information while allowing them to take a step back if they experience ill health.