Inquiry to investigate contaminated blood scandal in U.K.

The government of the United Kingdom (U.K.) has announced that a new inquiry will be held to investigate the contaminated blood scandal that occurred primarily in the 1970s and 1980s. This resulted in approximately 7,500 people being infected with hepatitis C and HIV, and other blood borne viruses causing over 2,400 deaths. As patients with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders during that period regularly used treatment products made from donated blood, the bleeding disorders community was particularly strongly affected by the tragedy. There have been two previous inquiries—the Archer report in 2007 and another, the Penrose inquiry in Scotland in 2015—but members of the British Parliament and patient advocates have asserted that a new inquiry was needed because the previous ones had not gone into sufficient depth on the issue, had not compelled witnesses from government, and had not delivered justice to the victims.

As blood was not screened for viruses in the U.K. prior to 1990, many people who received donated blood or blood products in the 1970s and 1980s were infected with hepatitis and HIV and other infections. This tragedy had many causes, including the fact that the U.K. imported donated blood from the United States which was often provided by high-risk individuals, such as prison inmates, selling their blood. The fact that the community was not made adequately aware of the situation, and those infected with a virus were not always informed of their condition for many months or years , along with a general lack of transparency have led many to believe that there was some kind of cover-up involved. Theresa May—the current British Prime Minister—has called the contaminated blood scandal, “An appalling tragedy which should simply never have happened”.

The inquiry will look into the causes of the scandal and will determine what further actions to take. The exact nature of how the inquiry will be held—and whether it could lead to prosecutions—is still to be determined. People affected by the scandal have received some monetary support, but no compensation. There has been no admission of liability by any organization. Many are remarking that the 30-year delay is much too long given the severity of the event, and given the fact that inquiries were completed in several other countries more than a decade ago. Former U.K. Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, who championed the campaign for an inquiry, said the announcement was a long overdue “major breakthrough” for those affected by the scandal.

Liz Carroll, Chief Executive of The Haemophilia Society, said, “For decades people with bleeding disorders and their families have sought the truth. Instead, they were told by the Government that no mistakes were made while it repeatedly refused to acknowledge evidence of negligence and a subsequent cover up. Finally, they will have the chance to see justice. However, the inquiry must not be led by the Department of Health as proposed. I call on you (the Prime Minister) to ensure this inquiry is passed to another department.”

The Telegraph: