Documents discovered in contaminated blood scandal

Important documents about Britain's contaminated blood scandal, which the government said had been accidentally shredded, are still available, according to The Observer. During the late 1970's and 1980's, thousands of people, including nearly every haemophiliac in the country, were infected with deadly viruses such as Hepatitis C and HIV through infected blood. At least 800 have already died from Aids-related illnesses and hundreds more from chronic liver disease caused by hepatitis. Despite public health concerns over the contaminated blood, successive governments have refused to hold an inquiry into the tragedy.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health said that around 600 sensitive files had been 'inadvertently destroyed' by an inexperienced civil servant. However, it has emerged that several solicitors have copies of the documents, which detail meetings between the blood transfusion service, health boards, government officials and consultants. Some of the files were returned to the Department of Health last Tuesday.

Investigations into tainted blood scandals in other countries have revealed evidence of wrongdoing on the part of government and pharmaceutical companies. Campaigners in the UK have accused authorities of an extensive cover-up. Solicitors who have seen the newly-discovered documents said that they show that officials knew of the risks of contracting deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis from contaminated blood products years before they alerted patients.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed that documents relating to the contaminated blood case had been received last week. 'The department will consider these papers in light of the Freedom of Information Act,' she said.

Copies of lost 'blood row' papers found (The Observer, 21 May 2006)