Britain Slammed In Inquiry For Infecting Thousands With Tainted Blood And Covering Up The Scandal

(AP) — British authorities and the country’s public health service knowingly exposed tens of thousands of patients to deadly infections through contaminated blood and blood products, and hid the truth about the disaster for decades, an inquiry into the United Kingdom’s infected blood scandal found Monday.

An estimated 3,000 people in the United Kingdom are believed to have died and many others were left with lifelong illnesses after receiving blood or blood products tainted with HIV or hepatitis in the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The scandal is widely seen as the deadliest disaster in the history of Britain’s state-run National Health Service since its inception in 1948.

Former judge Brian Langstaff, who chaired the inquiry, slammed successive governments and medical professionals for “a catalogue of failures” and refusal to admit responsibility to save face and expense.

He found that deliberate attempts were made to conceal the scandal, and there was evidence of government officials destroying documents.

“This disaster was not an accident. The infections happened because those in authority — doctors, the blood services and successive governments — did not put patient safety first,” he said. “The response of those in authority served to compound people’s suffering.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised to the victims and said the report’s publication marked “a day of shame for the British state.”

Campaigners have fought for decades to bring official failings to light and secure government compensation.

The inquiry was finally approved in 2017, and over the past four years it reviewed evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses and more than 100,000 documents.

Many of those affected were people with haemophilia, a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot. In the 1970s, patients were given a new treatment that the UK imported from the United States. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was traced to high-risk donors, including prison inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.

Because manufacturers of the treatment mixed plasma from thousands of donations, one infected donor would compromise the whole batch.

The report said around 1,250 people with bleeding disorders, including 380 children, were infected with HIV -tainted blood products. Three-quarters of them have died. Up to 5,000 others who received the blood products developed chronic hepatitis C, a type of liver infection.

Meanwhile an estimated 26,800 others were also infected with hepatitis C after receiving blood transfusions, often given in hospitals after childbirth, surgery or an accident, the report said.

“I am truly sorry,” Sunak told a packed and silent House of Commons. “Today’s report shows a decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life. From the National Health Service to the civil service, to ministers in successive governments, at every level the people and institutions in which we place our trust failed in the most harrowing and devastating way.”

He vowed to “right this historic wrong” and said details of a compensation package, expected to total 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion), would be announced Tuesday.