Inquiry into Britain's tainted blood scandal begins in London
At least 2,400 people died in the 1970s and 80safter they were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C
A long-awaited inquiry into how contaminated blood killed thousands in the 1970s and 80s opened on Monday in Britain, as victims flung accusations at the government.
At least 2,400 people were killed as they were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through tainted blood – coming mainly from donors including prison inmates – while seeking treatment through the National Health Service (NHS).
The inquiry opened on Monday in London with a commemoration of the victims and their families, accompanied by a video sequence of pictures and pre-recorded statements. Half of the people with haemophilia who were infected have now died.
One victim said that the disease had “wrecked my marriage. It had a serious impact on my career.” A man said “I lost my job, I nearly lost my wife and we have had to live on the breadline.”
Des Collins, a partner at the law firm Collins Solicitors, which represents more than 800 relatives and survivors, said that “once the hearings start… the thousands affected by this terrible scandal will begin the long process of understanding how and why they received infected treatments from the NHS, the details of the extensive cover-up that followed, and what the government proposes to do about it.”
Cabinet office ministers promised earlier this year that victims would receive legal funding for the inquiry, but the families of the victims lashed out at the government on Monday for failing to keep its promise.
Last year Prime Minister Theresa May announced that there would be a free and public inquiry into the scandal. Medical records have gone missing and government documents were destroyed following the scandal. Over 100,000 documents have so far been retrieved and the inquiry is expected to acquire several times that number. Many hundreds of witness statements are also bound to take place.
Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said the probe would examine whether there had been an attempt to cover up the scandal, and has promised a “thorough examination of the evidence”.
Updated: September 24, 2018 08:00 PM