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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK
Canadian Red Cross negligent in HIV screening
Blood
Around 2,000 people were infected with HIV in the mid 80s
Canada's Supreme Court has found the Canadian Red Cross guilty of negligence for failing to screen blood donors effectively for HIV infection.

The court upheld a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that the organisation did not exercise a proper standard of care in collecting blood in 1983-85.

Three suits were brought against the Red Cross by people who received tainted blood. Two of them subsequently died of Aids and the third is HIV positive.

Altogether around 2,000 people were infected with HIV and up to 60,000 with Hepatitis C before blood tests began in late 1985.

Most took a limited $77,000 compensation package from the Canadian Government.

Blood tests for Aids had not been developed at the time, so screening of donors was the most effective way of preventing infection.

US comparison

Mike McCarthy of the Canadian Haemophilia Society described the ruling as a "moral and ethical victory for all people who suffered from tainted blood through the blood system in Canada".

The court concluded after comparisons with US Red Cross pamphlets on screening that the equivalent Canadian pamphlets were not as clear or effective in deterring high-risk donors.

An American Red Cross pamphlet issued in March 1983 warned sexually active gay men against giving blood because they were in a high-risk group for contracting HIV infection.

It said that people might be carrying the virus even if they felt in good health.

The Canadian pamphlet, however, merely focused on whether the donor felt healthy.

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See also:

17 Jul 99 | Americas
Canada blood row intensifies
22 Nov 97 | Despatches
Canada's Red Cross awaits HIV report
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