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“This Disaster Was Not An Accident”- The Infected Blood Scandal

Emma Burnett

After the 5-year infected blood inquiry, it has been found that at least 30,000 people in the UK have been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after being treated with contaminated blood between 1970 and 1991. More than 3000 people are known to have died as a result, and many more are expected to.

Blood important from the US was often donated […] by high-risk groups

The NHS, health officials and the British government have been condemned, as the inquiry found that the scandal was no accident. Despite pledging to become self-sufficient, the UK imported blood from overseas due to a high demand for blood transfusions. It was found that blood imported from the US was often donated for money by high-risk groups such as prisoners or drug addicts. The inquiry also revealed missteps such as the sourcing of blood from high-risk groups from the UK until 1986, and, before 1985, failing to heat-treat blood products, to eliminate HIV, despite the risks having been known since 1982.

The infected blood scandal primarily implicated patients with blood transfusions after surgery or childbirth, affecting 27,000 people as a result. It also affected1250 people with haemophilia or other conditions related to blood-clotting, two thirds of which died from AIDS related illnesses. The inquiry accuses authorities of covering up the scandal and failing to protect victims from HIV and hepatitis C.

Some of these children had undergone treatment without […] informed consent

Sir Brian Langstaff, the chair of the inquiry, said this disaster was not an accident”. He also described the scandal as horrifying”. The report referred to 380 children who had caught HIV from being treated with infected blood for their blood disorders, many of whom tragically died as children or young adults. It also found that some of these children had undergone treatment without them or their parents giving informed consent, which the report called unconscionable.

This week, Rishi Sunak has issued an apology to the victims and their families. He promised to compensate victims with “whatever it costs”. A multi-billion-pound compensation plan has been put forward, with the government having already made interim payouts of £100,000 each to about 4,000 survivors and bereaved partners. The government has confirmed that all of those ‘infected or affected’ by the infected blood scandal will receive compensation before the end of 2024.

Emma Burnett

Featured image courtesy of Hush Naidoo Jade Photography via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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