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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Risky blood collection allegations

December 30 2002
By Gerard Ryle

A Federal Government inquiry has been told that its own Health Department may have allowed blood plasma to be collected from drug addicts, prostitutes and criminals.

The plasma was allegedly used to make medicines for hospital patients.

A victim support group has also alleged that the Red Cross Blood Service and the department ignored warnings from British and French health authorities that what they were doing might be dangerous.

The inquiry, headed by Bruce Barraclough, the chairman of the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care, was ordered by Health Minister Kay Patterson in July, after it was revealed that health authorities in 1990 allowed blood plasma to be collected from donors known to be infected with the potentially fatal hepatitis C virus.

It is due to complete its work this week.

The plasma underwent processing at the then government- owned Commonwealth Serum Laboratories before being used by haemophiliacs, accident victims and other patients.

The suspect plasma was apparently processed in the belief that the virus would be killed by heat treatment. The allegations do not relate to blood transfusions.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the administrator of the Tainted Blood Product Action Group, Charles MacKenzie, said the medical literature showed that infected plasma donors were likely to be from an unsuitable subset of people.

He said most people who had the virus in 1990 were either former prisoners or people engaging in a variety of high-risk activities.


"The federal Health Department, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service . . . implemented a policy that took blood from a group they knew to be predominantly made up of criminals, injectors of illegal drugs, prostitutes and other people generally unfit for blood Alternative Treatments," he said.

He claimed the policy was likely to have encouraged high-risk donors to use the system as a way of testing themselves for other viruses.

"A potential for criminals and injectors of illegal drugs to use blood Alternative Treatments centres as discreet blood-testing facilities should never have been encouraged, however inadvertently," he said.

The Red Cross and the Health Department have told the inquiry that they followed the lead of the United States' Food and Drug Administration in allowing hepatitis C-infected plasma to be collected.

In 1990, the FDA advocated using unscreened plasma in processed blood products because it believed it made them safer.

The policy was overturned in the US by a safety committee in late 1991.

The Health Department has repeatedly refused to reveal when the collection of infected plasma stopped in Australia.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service said it was premature to comment on the inquiry.

She said the service would prefer to wait until its results were known.

"We have cooperated fully with the inquiry. We have made submissions and we look forward to the results of the inquiry and we will make an appropriate public comment at that time," she said.

Professor Barraclough could not be contacted for comment.








Jan 20 2003

Cops to launch health probe

Janice Burns

THE people responsible for Scotland's blood scandal tragedies could face charges of culpable homicide.

It carries the penalty of up to seven years in jail.

Other possible charges of criminal negligence, warranting up to five years in jail, may be brought against those blamed for haemophiliacs infected with HIV or full blown AIDS, hepatitis C and CJD due to contaminated blood products.

Top policemen are considering an investigation into who is to blame.

Prosecutions for illnesses and deaths after transfusions could then follow.

In France, the former Prime Minister, health ministers and a number of health officials were put on trial for manslaughter.

The Prime Minister was exonerated in 1999 but the rest were jailed or fined for knowingly allowing tainted blood products to be used.

Andy Gunn, of the Scottish Haemophilia Group Forum, has written to the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS).

He has asked ACPOS president Chief Constable Andrew Cameron from Central Scotland Police to trace and charge those behind our worst medical disaster.

Haemophiliac Andy, from Edinburgh, developed both HIV and hepatitis C from infected blood products, taken from at-risk donors.

He tells Mr Cameron that many victims fear a cover-up.

He writes: "Despite years of campaigning, there has never been a public inquiry and we have never been allowed legal aid.

"All effective legal and political avenues have been closed to us."

Andy goes on: "During the 70s and 80s, successive governments ignored warnings that importing blood products from American pharmaceutical companies was at best, unwise and at worst, criminal."

He says that the widespread use of these products has only recently been confirmed and that, contrary to official statements, a heat process to treat viruses in the imported blood was not used as early as possible - leaving blood receivers vulnerable.

Mr Cameron said ACPOS members would consider "whether it would be legitimate for the Scottish Police Service to investigate".

Last night, Andy said: "We want those responsible identified and charged. We could be looking at criminal charges against people like former health ministers and top civil servants.

"The Prime Minister may also be called to the stand if France's experience is anything to go by."




ONE in five haemophilia sufferers have been killed by infected NHS blood, it has been revealed.

Haemophilia Society president Alf Morris told a shocked House of Lords that 1,000 out of 5,000 patients have died of AIDS or Hepatitis C.

Those still alive are under a death sentence as they too might have been given CJD-infected blood.

Lord Morris said: "They have been warned that blood from a donor with CJD has been given to them. That wouldn't have happened if hospitals had used synthetic blood."

The artificial product is available to all in Scotland and Wales but it cannot be obtained for sufferers over 21 in England.

Infected blood was given to them before screening - and before 1985 heat treatment was available to kill off the hepatitis virus.

But Health minister Lord Philip Hunt said hepatitis sufferers who will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer will not receive compensation.

Lord Morris added: "The Government says cost is not the issue but many suspect it's the Treasury who is driving this."

Haemophilia sufferers need frequent transfusions and risk bleeding to death from the slightest cut.