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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK


Hepatitis C campaigners won't take no for an answer

Ros Batten takes her medication

Haemophiliacs who contracted a deadly disease from contaminated blood supplies hope they might finally receive some compensation, BBC North Health Correspondent Cathy Killick reports.

Thousands of haemophiliacs infected by contaminated blood have been given the first signs that the government may relent and give them compensation.

Hints that hepatitis C sufferers may get damages have come from Wakefield MP and chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee David Hinchliffe.

Mr Hinchliffe told the BBC: "I'll campaign very strongly for compensation for this matter to be looked at.

"The government has to balance the issue of compensation in cases such as this with the huge resources required to treat people. I understand the difficulties there are in addressing this issue.

"There are very reasonable grievances being expressed by the patients suffering from Hepatitis C. I hope the government will look again at this matter."

Three thousand patients contracted the potentially fatal virus during the seventies and eighties when they received contaminated blood supplies from the NHS.

But while haemophiliacs who contracted HIV were paid millions in damages, those who got Hepatitis C have so far received nothing.

Getting ready to die

Ros Batten was among those who contracted the disease.

"I found myself the other day picking out the music I wanted at my funeral, which is something I don't think you should be doing when you're 24," she said.

"You don't think you're going to be dying. I have to face up to that reality."

David Robinson, from Cleethorpes, contracted the virus after being given clotting agent when he had a tooth out 20 years ago. He has already had to have a liver transplant and may well need another.

"I find it bemusing really. I can't see why they think they're responsible for HIV victims and not the Hepatitis C victims," he said.

Huge cost

[ image: Frank Dobson: Has refused compensation]
Frank Dobson: Has refused compensation
Despite protests from Hepatitis C sufferers, the Health Secretary Frank Dobson maintains the NHS is not to blame. Full compensation could cost the NHS £140m.

He said: "The NHS will only pay compensation if there's evidence there's been negligence on the part of the service as a whole or one part of the service.

"Otherwise we'd have to compensate every person who fell ill or suffered adverse reactions to an operation."

Mr Dobson's comments cut little ice with Ros Batten.

"Frank Dobson said there was no stigma as far as he could tell," she said.

"What greater stigma is there than not being able to get a mortgage, life assurance, not being able to go abroad and work or even get a boyfriend, for God's sake?"

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