In the United Kingdom, victims of contaminated blood finally recognized, forty years after the first alerts

This Monday, May 20, was a historic day in the United Kingdom: more than forty years after the first contaminations were identified and the first suspicions raised, the more than 30,000 victims of the British tainted blood scandal finally obtained recognition that they have been asking for years. The final report on the public inquiry, launched in 2017, was published and those responsible were named: “This disaster was not an accident, these infections occurred because those in authority – doctors, blood authorities and successive governments – failed to make patient safety their priority” , insisted the chairman of the inquiry, retired judge Sir Brian Langstaff.

Why have more than 3,000 people died from exposure? “avoidable”, according to the magistrate, to HIV and hepatitis C viruses? Why do thousands of other infected people, hemophiliacs or those who have undergone a transfusion due to an accident, live with considerable suffering (liver cancer, cirrhosis, immune deficiencies), without justice having yet been served? , while in France, Canada and Japan, where similar scandals linked to batches of blood contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C took place, those responsible have been designated and often punished for at least twenty years ?

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These are the questions that Sir Langstaff tried to answer this Monday, from Central Hall Westminster, a Methodist church in the heart of London. In the enormous nave, facing thousands of victims and their very moved relatives, the magistrate pointed out the assertions “false” governments and medical authorities (notably the NHS, the national health service), who tirelessly brushed aside patients’ concerns and complaints, repeating that they had received “the best possible treatments” and that the tests on the blood donations and blood products had been carried out ” as soon as possible “.

Campaigners against tainted blood at a rally in London, May 19, 2024.

Very serious facts

Slowness, negligence, denial… The list of facts criticized by the magistrate is long and extremely serious. His report denounces, in addition “the repeated use by governments of inaccurate and misleading arguments” to justify their refusal to open a public inquiry, the destruction “deliberate” of certain documents and the “loss of many others”making “discovery of the truth more difficult” or even refusal “for decades” to pay compensation to victims.

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