Victims of infected blood ‘truly lived through the worst of times’, public inquiry said

Victims of the tainted blood scandal feel “justified anger” and have “the right to demand change and the right to demand restitution”, the last day of a long-running public inquiry has been heard.

Sam Stein KC, representing 23 people affected by infected blood or blood products, including relatives who supported a terminally ill couple, told Infected Blood Inquiry that they had “really been through the worst of times.”

The independent inquiry was ordered six years ago by then-Prime Minister Theresa May to investigate the circumstances in which men, women and children treated by health services received infected blood, particularly since the 1970s.

Chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry also looks at support given to patients after infection, questions about consent and whether there was a cover-up.

In final inquest closing presentations on Friday, after almost four years of evidence heard from across the UK, Stein said of the victims he represents: “Our clients have been infected, affected and killed by this scandal.

“Our clients’ lives have been devastated and derailed by their exposure and that of their loved ones to infected blood products.”

Stein told the hearing in London: “They really have been through the worst of it: the stigma, the fear, the endless desperate day-to-day ill-health, the pain, the brain fog and the continual sleep deprivation.”

The lawyer said that many of his team’s clients were activists who had fought for justice and truth, and that “if they ignored them” they had “knocked on another door”.

Stein told the inquiry: “They were never stopped and without them, and this needs acknowledgment, this inquiry would never have happened.

“All of our clients are passionate, relentless and angry, but this is righteous anger. This is the righteous wrath of the ignored, marginalized and discriminated against (against).

“We do not apologize for the visceral anger of our customers. We make no apologies for their desire for truth and for proper compensation for the harm done to them.

“Instead, let me be very clear: you are right to be angry and you are right to demand compensation, right to demand change, and right to demand restitution.”

The Infected Blood Inquiry memorial at Fleetbank House in London (Infected Blood Inquiry/PA)

Stein also claimed that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) responses during the investigation had shown a “utter lack of candor” and a “failure to realize that apologies have to mean anything”.

In its submissions to the inquiry last month, the government said interim compensation payments of around £400m showed it accepted its “moral responsibility” to help victims.

Eleanor Gray KC of the DHSC told the inquiry on January 18 that the hearings had “gave a powerful voice” to patients harmed by contaminated blood treatments and their loved ones.

DHSC’s investigation closure written submissions, dated December 16 of last year, said the department accepted that “things happened that shouldn’t have happened” and that no statement made on its behalf should detract from its apology.” without reservation.”

Ordering the investigation in 2017, Ms May described the impact of the infected products as a “appalling tragedy that simply should never have happened”.

An estimated 2,400 patients died after becoming infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Most of those involved had hemophilia, a blood clotting disorder, and received injections of the American product Factor VIII.

Thousands of adults and around 380 children received infected blood products or transfusions during treatment by the NHS, according to the research.

After Mr. Stein’s closing speech was applauded by many of those attending the hearing, counsel for the investigation, Jenni Richards KC, said: “The events leading up to this investigation have been memorably described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the National Health Service. .”

Ms Richards added that the scope of the investigation is unprecedented in its scale, with tens of thousands infected, and in its time frame and geography.

Postponing the inquiry, Sir Brian said the final report “would not be short” and would not be complete before autumn.

The inquiry chair also said he intended to make a further interim report on the “framework” for compensation, which he hoped would be ready before Easter.

Sir Brian, who heard live evidence from 370 witnesses over 286 days, said: “Many of the submissions, written or oral, were asking me to make another interim report on compensation.

“I will have to reflect on the submissions, especially those that say as little time as possible should be lost before finalizing the compensation arrangements.

“I want to tell you that I have written to the Paymaster General to inform him of my intention to make a new interim report on the compensation framework.

“I anticipate I’ll be in a position to do it before Easter, if not before.”

In a statement, the Hemophilia Society said the final submissions marked another milestone on the long road to truth and justice.

The campaign group said the investigation had exposed the depth of suffering, pain and hardship caused by the tainted blood scandal, a “surprisingly slow and complacent” response to health risks known in the 1970s and 1980, and a refusal by those in power to accept responsibility for what went wrong.

Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “The immense suffering caused by this preventable NHS treatment disaster has been deepened by decades of denial by successive governments that have failed to accept responsibility for what happened.

“The research evidence clearly shows that many infections and deaths could have been prevented if the government had responded more quickly to the known risks in blood and blood products used for treatment in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The government must address the mistakes of the past by acknowledging what went wrong and committing to pay full compensation to those infected and their families.”

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