Terms of Reference for Blood Scandal Will Look for Evidence of Cover-Up

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Wednesday 4th July 2018

Published terms of reference have revealed that the UK-wide inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal that has caused the deaths of at least 1250 people will ask about whether documents were destroyed related to the scandal or if there was a cover-up by the relevant authorities.

Sir Brian Langstaff, who published the terms of reference, is the judge that is chairing the public inquiry.

The scandal is considered one of the worst disasters in the 70-year history of the NHS and concerns the use of imported blood-derived products by the NHS in the 1970s and 80s, used to treat haemophilia. Haemophilia is a genetic disorder that causes a person’s blood to not clot properly, leading to frequent heavy bruising, bleeding long after a cut or other injury and a risk of internal bleeding, causing what would be minor injuries to be potentially fatal. For most, there is no cure, but there are treatments that mitigate it and lessens the damage, one of which involves the use of blood clotting agents like Factor VIII and Factor IX, which is made from blood plasma and adds clotting agents to blood.

Whilst whole blood was for the most part banned from being imported from countries with a high rate of hepatitis and paying donors for whole blood was also effectively gone, this did not stop the use of vast amounts of imported plasma from pretty much everywhere. In America, this came from paid and unpaid donors from people who were at risk of infection (prisoners and drug addicts) and as an entire batch could be contaminated by a single infected donor, this would cause whoever used the tainted Factor VIII were guaranteed to be infected. Other plasma came from Haiti’s number two political figure Luckner Cambronne, who would become known as the “Vampire of the Carribean” for harvesting plasma from Haitians alive and dead, as well as Canadian company Crysosan Ltd, who harvested plasma from dead Russian bodies which were labelled as Swedish.

The result of this, and the relative lack of UK developed factor products led to nearly 4000 people with haemophilia being infected with hepatitis C, and nearly 1250 would also become infected with HIV. HIV at this point was considered an incurable disease and at least 1250 people have died as a result of the contamination, and the remaining still feeling the effects of these conditions over thirty years later.

The hope is that with a comprehensive inquiry into the truth of what happened will become apparent, what caused it and the scale of the health disaster, as well as what can be learned. Evidence gathering is to begin this week and the inquiry is to take between two and four years to complete.

Sir Brian urged anyone who had knowledge or experience that could help the inquiry to come forward.

Campaigners welcomed Sir Brian’s opening statements and Terms of Reference, stating that he had listened to campaigners regarding the scope of inquiry.