Category: Archive

Irish government OKs probe into tainted blood

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The government is to set up a tribunal of inquiry into how hundreds of hemophilia sufferers were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C by contaminated blood products. It will also consider a new compensation scheme for those affected.

A Department of Health spokesman said senior counsel from the Irish Hemophilia Society and the government were working on draft terms of reference for the inquiry.

"Once approved by the attorney general, these will go to the minister for health who will bring them back to the government for enactment by parliament," the spokesman said.

The IHS has been pressing for an inquiry for two years and administrator Rosemary Daly said this investigation would be different from the two sitting tribunals investigating payments to politicians.

"This is a totally different tribunal," she said. "This tribunal is about the misappropriation of lives and not funds."

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She said members of the society were emotional that they were finally going to get an investigation that might finally tell them "why their loved ones had died."

In 1996, IHS representatives walked out of a judicial tribunal to investigate the infection of 1,600 women with Hepatitis C through post-natal injections of a blood product.

The hemophiliacs said that inquiry did not deal adequately with their problems and that they had no confidence in it.

The new inquiry will also reexamine the £8 million paid out in compensation in 1991 to HIV-infected hemophiliacs.

The spokesman said there was a perception the compensation had been inadequate and Minister Brian Cowen would be examining this and coming back to the Government with proposals to ensure a fair and equitable system.

Of 450 Irish people with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, about 210 have so far been diagnosed with incurable Hepatitis C.

There are over 100 infected with HIV and some of them also have Hepatitis C.

More than 60 hemophiliacs have died from HIV and Hepatitis C infections.

The 24-day inquiry into Hepatitis C infections in woman strongly criticized top medical staff in the Blood Transfusion Services Board.

The report detailed a catalogue of "failures, neglect and inadequacies" in the BTSB and then Health Minister Michael Noonan described it as "one of the worst public scandals" in the country’s history.

The 220-page report was referred to the director of public prosecutions, but he decided there was not enough evidence in it to justify prosecuting staff.

The state’s final compensation bill in the Hepatitis C scandal will likely exceed £200 million.

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