Robert Mackie, a Scottish man with hemophilia A, has alleged that knowledge of his HIV positive status was kept from him for several years before he was finally informed. The assertion has been made public since the UK began conducting probes into the blood scandals of the 1970s and 1980s.
The 58-year old Mackie, one of the thousands of UK hemophilia patients infected by contaminated blood products in the 1980s, asserts that his doctors, including his physician Christopher Ludlam, MD, purposely withheld his HIV diagnosis in order to keep him in a group of research study patients. “They used me as a guinea pig,” said Mackie from his Scotland home. “It’s just a miracle my wife wasn’t infected.” Mackie was infected in the mid-1980s but claims he was not informed until 1987.
In April 1983, an American doctor wrote a letter published in the journal The Lancet to query the medical community for more data on hemophilia patients in locations where there was no reported HIV in the blood donor community. In a letter of response published in May 1983, Ludlam presented his own patients as a resource for additional study, since Scotland manufactured its own factor VIII product and appeared to have a donor pool free of HIV.
At some point, Ludlam wrote to government health authorities to procure ethics approval to study the immune systems of infected patients. While he claimed to have informed patients of the research and received their consent, evidence given by Mackie at the hearings refutes this. “If, as the ethics application form states, consent was obtained from all subjects ... how is it that I did not know about my AIDS status until 1987?” asked Mackie. Ludlam, currently with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, turned down an opportunity to comment on the case with The Associated Press.
The UK public inquiry, which has placed an emphasis on transparency, began in March 2007. The primary aim of the inquiry was to examine the conditions that lead to the proliferation of contaminated blood products to people with hemophilia. From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, more than 6,000 people with hemophilia were infected with HIV, hepatitis C (HCV) or both, through treatment with virally contaminated blood products distributed by the UK’s National Health Service. Nearly one-third of those individuals have since died. Mackie himself has lost a cousin, two uncles and several friends.
Although the Mackie hearings were closed to the public, a report is expected to be released soon.
Sources: Foster’s Daily Democrat, August 20, 2008, and The News & Observer, August 24, 2008