When Things Go Wrong – The Tragedy and Scandal of Infected Blood

I wrote recently that there are few better ways of spending an evening than by being in the company of Terry Waite. In sad contrast, there are few more sobering mornings to sit through than to be at the public inquiry into Infected Blood.

Published on: 8/7/19, 2:00 pm


For those unaware, this Inquiry relates to the events surrounding the infection of Haemophiliacs in the late 70s/80s through blood products, often given in transfusions. The blood products, bought from the United States had been obtained from some donors whose lifestyles had brought them into contact with various transmissible diseases. The recipients and their families never knew.

The tragedy is that blood thought to be life enhancing or saving turned out to be a carrier of disease and death. The scandal is that this was deliberately covered up. The long called for Inquiry is finding out what went so wrong. Companies, successive Governments and the NHS have a case to answer.

The Inquiry is hearing heart-breaking stories. I listened to a survivor. He described as a child at a special school, where he believed he was safe, being given a new substance about which nurses had doubts; of his doctor caught secretly breaking down in tears of agony once he realised what he had been administering; the shock of the coldness of being told in the company of four other boys who had or had not contracted HIV “you have, you haven’t…”; of being used as a guinea pig for trials without knowing; and of the gifts to him, his friends and the school from pharmaceutical companies – those which he would learn in the future had hidden from him what they were doing and had done.

I was there because I have brave constituents, co-infected with Hepatitis and HIV/Aids, who are now among the fewer than 300 survivors of the 1200 so similarly affected. Their astonishing dignity and courage, enduring a lifetime of suffering inflicted upon them and their families, became the persistence which has ensured this inquiry is held, into the biggest scandal ever to affect the NHS. 

I am afraid there is shame for the nation - but there should only be a marvelling at human resilience in saluting the survivors.


Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP

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