On March 27, 2007, an independent public inquiry began in the United Kingdom (UK), to examine the conditions that lead to the proliferation of contaminated blood products to people with hemophilia decades ago. From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, more than 6,000 people with hemophilia were infected with HIV and hepatitis C by the products they took to replace missing clotting factors in their blood. As a result, 1,757 have died. The contaminated blood or blood products were distributed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
The inquiry, lead by Lord Archer Sandwell, will also look at the impact of these deaths on the UK hemophilia community and ways to ameliorate the suffering of patients and grieving families. “We trust it will also help those afflicted and bereaved to come to terms with the tragedy—knowing much more of how it came about,” said Sandwell in an opening statement. “Hopefully our findings may help to restore public confidence in the future treatment of patients.”
Past governments in the UK have been reluctant to hold a public inquiry into the tragedy, favoring in-house inquests conducted by the Department of Health, said Lord Morris of Manchester, president of the all-party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia.
Lord Sandwell assured the public that the inquiry was not statutory, that expenses would be covered by private sources and that neither he nor his colleagues would receive compensation.
The Haemophilia Society, long-time advocate of an inquiry, expressed its support. “It’s taken 19 years of campaigning,” said Roddy Morrison, chairman of the society. “There’s never been a chance for people to tell their stories and to know that people with the right skills will be able to look at this and establish what happened and could things have been done to prevent this.”
The oral hearing component of the inquiry began on April 18, 2007.
Sources: Sky News (online) and Press Association Newsfile, both dated March 27, 2007, BBC news (online) April 18, 2007