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Sunak apologizes after damning reporting on UK infected blood scandal

Sunak apologizes after damning reporting on UK infected blood scandal
Sunak apologizes after damning reporting on UK infected blood scandal

 


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a solemn apology to the victims and families of one of the country's worst medical failures on Monday after a damning report said the blood contamination that killed 3,000 people and infected more than 30,000 could have been largely avoided.

Today is a shameful day for the British nation, Chancellor Sunak told MPs. There he apologized sincerely and clearly for what he said were repeated failures by British officials.

He said he was truly sorry, just hours after the release of a long-awaited report that identified a catalog of failures by the British government and medical staff over two decades. Many of these errors were avoidable but were covered up at the time.

The 2,000-page report is the result of a nearly six-year investigation ordered by the British government in 2017 after decades of pressure from victims and their families.

Today's report reveals decades of moral failure at the heart of our national life, Mr Sunak said. At every level, the people and institutions we trust have failed in the most disastrous and devastating ways.

He pledged that the government would provide comprehensive compensation to those infected and their families, but said details of such a plan would be made public on Tuesday. He also promised that the government would study the report's wide-ranging recommendations to avoid a repeat of its failures.

The British government agreed to distribute an interim payment of 100,000 pounds, or about $127,000, to each victim in 2022.

The independent report points out that Britain's state-run National Health Service suffered systematic, collective and individual failures from the 1970s to the early 1990s, when tens of thousands of people became infected with contaminated blood transfusions or contaminated blood products. cast a harsh light on the state-run National Health Service. The authorities at the time and previous governments refused to acknowledge these failures, the report said.

He said much of the truth has been hidden to save face and save money.

According to the report, between 1970 and 1991, more than 26,000 people were infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions. Among those who received contaminated blood products, approximately 1,250 people, including approximately 380 children, became infected with HIV. An additional 5,000 people developed chronic forms of hepatitis C.

Brian Langstaff, a former High Court judge who led the inquiry, told a press conference in London packed with pollution victims and their families that the disaster was no accident. They cheered and applauded as he exposed what he described as a series of serious failings by British health and government officials who failed to put patient safety first.

People trusted their doctors and government to keep them safe, but that trust was betrayed, Mr Langstaff said. The NHS and successive governments have compounded the suffering by refusing to accept that something wrong has happened.

Victims of blood contamination and their families expressed relief at the report's findings, but also anger that it had taken so long. Some victims died before the investigation was completed or even before it began, and some of the officials who were supposed to be responsible also died.

Long-time activist Andy Evans said he felt validated and validated when he learned he had contracted HIV at the age of 13 from a blood transfusion for hemophilia.

We've been angry for generations, Mr. Evans said. This report puts an end to that.

Some of the failings identified in the report occurred before Mr Sunak was even born, but Mr Langstaff said that until recently the government had shown institutional defensiveness, ignoring or denying past wrongdoings even as infected patients continued to die.

Mr Langstaff said in some cases documents were deliberately and unfairly destroyed to make it difficult to uncover the truth.

The investigation was not authorized to recommend criminal charges, and it was not immediately clear whether the report would lead to charges.

John Glenn, the British government official responsible for matters relating to the infected blood investigation, told LBC radio on Monday that if there was clear evidence and a route to it, it was clear the government would have to address it.

The scandal has its roots in the 1970s and 1980s, when thousands of patients were exposed to contaminated blood. Some needed blood transfusions due to accidents, surgery or complications during childbirth.

Many others had hemophilia, a genetic disorder that causes blood to not clot properly. At the time, many of them were given a plasma-derived treatment called Factor VIII, which provides the missing protein needed for blood clotting in hemophilia patients.

The treatment was done using a pool of plasma from thousands of donors, meaning that even a small number of contaminated donations could contaminate the entire pool. (Later, synthetic clotting factor proteins were developed.)

The NHS imported some of its Factor VIIIs from the United States, where many donations came from prisoners or drug users who were paid to donate blood, which increases the risk of HIV or hepatitis C infection.

For years, the British government and health authorities insisted that the infections were accidental, that patients received the best treatment possible, and that hepatitis C testing could not have been introduced sooner.

But Mr Langstaff said British authorities ignored early warning signs from the 1940s that blood transfusions could transmit diseases such as hepatitis. They also failed to adequately screen high-risk donors, did not inform patients of the risks and were slow to adopt new tests used in other countries, he said.

He said that as early as 1952, the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified ways to reduce the risk of hepatitis transmission through transfusions and blood products, for example by carefully selecting donors and avoiding large donor pools. But British authorities have shown little or no heed to that advice, he added.

According to the report, British authorities were unable to secure a sufficient domestic supply of factor VIII concentrate from the plasma of British donors, and in 1973 authorized the import of blood products from the United States and Austria, even though the treatment was understood to be: Less safe than current domestic treatments for bleeding disorders.

In some cases, it has been used in medical trials without the consent of the victims. In other cases, diagnosis was delayed or withheld, leading to patients unknowingly infecting their partners.

The investigative panel, comprised of legal experts, investigators and civil servants, heard from infected people and their families, loved ones, medical and ethics experts, government officials and politicians.

Victims and their families felt that the inquiries and compensation offers so far were not sufficient. An independent report in 2009 concluded that the tragedy could have been prevented if blood imports from the United States had been halted, but it stopped short of blaming individual doctors or companies and did not call anyone from the Health Department to testify.

An investigation was conducted in Scotland in 2015, and then-Prime Minister David Cameron apologized, but the investigation was deemed unsatisfactory by the victims and their families as witnesses outside Scotland could not be called.

Other countries, including the United States and Japan, have faced similar scandals.

In France, several senior health officials were found guilty of distributing contaminated blood in 1992, and France's then-Minister of Health was found guilty of negligence in 1999. However, he received no punishment, and two other high-ranking officials, including then-prime minister Laurent Fabius, were also acquitted.

Sources

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/20/world/europe/britain-contaminated-blood-scandal.html

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