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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
Acquittals in Canada blood trial
Blood bag
More than 20,000 people were infected in the 1980s and 1990s
A Canadian judge has acquitted four doctors and a US drug company of criminal negligence in a long-running tainted-blood scandal.

At least 20,000 people were infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1980s and 1990s before Canada used up-to-date blood screening practices.

At least 3,000 people are known to have died as a result of receiving tainted blood products.

The case is the first to stem from Canada's worst public health disaster.

The trial covered seven of the more than 1,000 people who were infected from an HIV-infected blood-clotting product made by US-based Armour Pharmaceutical.

A second trial will deal with the bulk of the deaths and the thousands infected with hepatitis C.

'Tragic events'

The defendants in the 18-month trial included Dr Roger Perrault, the former director of the Canadian Red Cross and two former Health Canada officials, Dr John Furesz and Dr Donald Wark Boucher.

The US-based drug company Armour Pharmaceutical and one of its former vice-presidents, Dr Michael Rodell, were also on trial.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Prime Minister Harper announced a new compensation package

The defendants were alleged to have failed to screen blood products and take adequate measures to prevent people infected with HIV and Aids from donating their blood.

A comprehensive blood screening system was in use in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s but was not adopted in Canada.

Ontario provincial Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto said the events were "tragic, but to assign blame where none exists would compound the tragedy," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

In July 2006, the Canadian government announced a C$1bn ($1.008bn) compensation package for thousands of people infected with hepatitis C from tainted blood.

The package included thousands of people left out of a previous compensation agreement.

In May that year, the Canadian Red Cross apologised to the thousands of Canadians infected as a result of the tainted blood.

The government withdrew charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm against the charity in exchange for a guilty plea under the Food and Drugs Act.

SEE ALSO
Canada offer over blood scandal
26 Jul 06 |  Americas
Canada tainted blood trial opens
22 Feb 06 |  Americas
Canada Red Cross used HIV blood
31 May 05 |  Americas

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