Britain slammed in inquiry for infecting thousands with tainted blood and covering up the scandal

LONDON (AP) — British authorities and the country’s public health services knowingly exposed tens of thousands of patients to deadly infections through contaminated blood and blood products, and hid the truth about the disaster for years. decades, according to a survey on the The UK infected blood scandal found Monday.

In the UK, it is estimated that around 3,000 people died and many more people were left ill for life after receiving blood or blood products contaminated with HIV or hepatitis in the 1970s and early from the 1990s.

The scandal is widely considered the deadliest disaster in British government history. National Health Service since its creation in 1948.

Former judge Brian Langstaff, who chaired the inquiry, criticized successive governments and medical professionals for “a catalog of failures” and their refusal to admit responsibility to save face and expense. It found that deliberate attempts had been made to cover up the scandal and that there was evidence of the destruction of documents by government officials.

“This disaster was not an accident. Infections occurred because the authorities – doctors, blood transfusion services and successive governments – failed to prioritize patient safety,” he said. “The response of the authorities in place has only worsened the suffering of the population. »

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologized to the victims and said the publication of the report marked “a day of shame for the British state”.

Activists have fought for decades to highlight official failures and obtain government compensation. The inquiry was finally approved in 2017, and over the past four years it has examined evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses and more than 100,000 documents.

Many of those affected were people with hemophilia, a disease affecting the ability of blood to clot. In the 1970s, patients received a new treatment imported from the United States by the United Kingdom. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products came from high-risk donors, including inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.

Because the treatment’s manufacturers were mixing plasma from thousands of donations, one infected donor would compromise the entire batch.

The report said about 1,250 people with bleeding disorders, including 380 children, were infected with the virus. HIV -contaminated blood products. Three quarters of them died. Up to 5,000 other people who received the blood products developed chronic hepatitis C, a type of liver infection.

Meanwhile, about 26,800 other people were also infected with hepatitis C after receiving blood transfusions, often given in hospitals after childbirth, surgery or an accident, according to the report.

“I am very sorry,” Sunak told a packed and silent House of Commons. “Today’s report reveals a decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life. From the National Health Service, to the Civil Service, to ministers in successive governments, at every level, the people and institutions we put our trust in have failed in the most heartbreaking and devastating ways.

He pledged to “right this historic wrong” and said details of a compensation package, expected to total 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion), would be announced on Tuesday.

The report states that many deaths and illnesses could have been avoided if the government had taken steps to reduce the risks associated with blood transfusions or the use of blood products. Since the 1940s and early 1980s, it was known that hepatitis and the cause of AIDS could be transmitted in this way, according to the investigation.

Langstaff said that unlike a long list of developed countries, British authorities have failed to ensure rigorous selection of blood donors and monitoring of blood products. At a school attended by children with hemophilia, public health officials gave the children “multiple and riskier” treatments as part of the research, according to the report.

He added that over the years, authorities “made the agony worse by refusing to accept that any harm had been done”, falsely telling patients that they had received the best treatment available and that testing blood had been introduced as early as possible. When people were found to be infected, authorities were slow to inform them of what had happened.

Langstaff said that while each failure on its own was serious, taken together, “they constitute a calamity.”

Andy Evans, of campaign group Tainted Blood, told reporters he and others “felt like they were shouting into the wind for the last 40 years”.

“We have been in the spotlight for generations. Today’s report puts an end to that. He also looks to the future and says this cannot continue,” he said.

Diana Johnson, a lawmaker who has long campaigned for victims, said she hoped those responsible for the disaster would be brought to justice – including prosecution – even though investigations have taken so long that some of the main players may well have since died.

“There needs to be accountability for actions that were taken, even if it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago,” she said.


Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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