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When Thousands Were Infected By Blood Contamination

When someone requires a blood transfusion, they rely on another person’s blood to keep them alive. However, blood does not only provide life-giving opportunities. Blood can also carry disease, transmitting deadly diseases to the recipient of the transfusion. Decades after a mass blood contamination epidemic, healthcare officials offer patients and their families little comfort.

In the 1970s and 1980s, almost 5,000 people in the UK were infected with hepatitis C during medical treatment. Another 1,200 were infected with HIV when seeking blood transfusions or treatment for hemophilia. Prime Minister Theresa May has called the contamination event the “biggest treatment disaster in the history of the National Health Service.”

As of 2007, 1,600 people had died as a result of the tainted blood infections. The government has been widely criticized over their handling of the mass contamination. While the government has provided some discretionary payments to some victims, not health or medical agency has accepted blame for the scandal, and no victims have been compensated for their suffering.

Bruce Norval, a hemophiliac who was infected with hepatitis C calls the situation a travesty. “What they expected today was some sign of responsibility from the state,” said Norval, “and I’m not surprised they were upset and angered by what is a totally inadequate response to significant evidence of bad practice and negligence.”

In 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron apologized publicly for the contamination scandal. “It is difficult to imagine the feelings of unfairness that people must feel at being infected with hepatitis C or HIV as a result of a totally unrelated treatment within the NHS,” said Cameron.

Some 30 years later, family members and survivors are still seeking answers to what went wrong, and who was responsible. The information that has been made available has been labeled by some as whitewashing the truth. Families are still waiting for a full inquiry and compensation.

In 2009, a privately-funded inquiry looked into the events that occurred in the 70s and 80s, calling the scandal a “horrific human tragedy.” According to the report, health authorities were slow to react to the problem, leading to the thousands of cases of contamination. The report found that much of the contaminated blood had come from “skid row” donors, including prison inmates, who had a higher risk of hepatitis C and HIV.

The inquiry also recommended compensating the victims. Christopher James with the Hemophilia Society says the government needs to step in to make the situation right. “It is absolutely shameful that successive governments have not held a public inquiry on this issue,” said James. “The current level of payments and method of payment are inappropriate and not fit for purpose.”

If you or a loved one has been infected with hepatitis or any other contagious disease as the result of medical treatment, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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