Government authorities in the United Kingdom (UK) have refused to release some 35 documents that were requested as part of a public inquiry into the UK Department of Health’s actions regarding contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
The UK inquiry has been investigating the circumstances that contributed to the proliferation of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV)-contaminated blood in the country. Approximately 5,000 blood safety-related documents have been released by the Department of Health as part of the inquiry. A parliamentary probe has brought added attention to 35 documents that have not been released.
Access to many of these documents is being denied on the grounds of “commercial interests,” an explanation that has drawn the indignation of Jenny Willott, a member of Parliament. “Over three-quarters of those who contracted HIV through contaminated NHS blood are now dead.
“How can the government put private companies’ interests, dating back to the 1980s, ahead of the right of the infected and the families of the deceased to know how this dreadful saga was able to happen?”
In the late 1970s and 1980s, more than 1,200 individuals were infected with HIV from the use of contaminated blood and blood products. Two-thirds have died. Approximately 4,800 were also infected with hepatitis C. In 2007, an independent inquiry was begun, chaired by Lord Archer of Sandwell. The Archer Inquiry revealed that UK government health officials had known of the risk inherent in the use of these products and had intended to end their importation in the mid-1970s, but did not.
“By withholding vital evidence, the department is showing a profound lack of respect, not only to the inquiry and those who have given painful personal testimony to it, but to the thousands of families affected by the disaster,” said Dan Farthing of the London-based Haemophilia Society.
Source: The Guardian (online), January 26, 2009