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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 15:44 GMT
No compensation for infected blood

Blood was infected with hepatitis C virus
The government has ruled out compensation for haemophiliacs affected by blood products contaminated with hepatitis C.

It has also refused to order a public inquiry into the affair, which left more than 4,000 people infected.

We concluded that haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C should not receive special payments.

John Denham MP, Health Minister
Haemophiliacs lack a body chemical which helps blood clot, and modern treatments involve extracting this chemical from donated blood and giving it by injection.

During the 1970s and 1980s, some of this blood product was contaminated with viruses.

Another 1,200 people infected with HIV in the same way have been compensated, but health minister John Denham rejected extending this to the hepatitis C sufferers.

John Denham: no compensation
He said: "We concluded that haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C should not receive special payments.

"The need of people whose conditions result from inadvertent harm is met from benefits available to the population in general."

He added that he had seen "no evidence" that a public inquiry was needed.

This is despite the fact that the virus is hard to treat and can leave patients needing a liver transplant.

One Labour MP condemned the decision not to pay compensation to the hepatitis patients.

Roger Godsiff, MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, said: "This group of people are not asking for the earth. They are not asking for revenge. They are not asking for mega bucks.

For some, through no fault of their own, this is a life sentence. For some it's a death sentence.

Michael Mates MP
"They are just asking to be treated, as were HIV sufferers, infected with contaminated blood."

Conservative MP Michael Mates said that financial assistance was needed because many hepatitis sufferers had been forced to give up work because of their illness.

He said: "For some, through no fault of their own, this is a life sentence. For some it's a death sentence.

"Can we really tolerate this in the 20th Century?"

He also criticised health authorities who were refusing to fund the latest treatments for hepatitis C sufferers, describing the situation as a "scandal".

The Haemophilia Society says that 110 people have died since the 1980s as a result of being infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.

Its chief executive Karen Pappenheim said: "It is particularly upsetting that this has come from John Denham, who signed an Early Day Motion in our support when he was in opposition.

"It is not simply a narrow argument of medical negligence and a Conservative government recognised the special circumstances by providing financial assistance for those with haemophilia infected with HIV.

"What we have asked for is for the remit of this existing fund of money to be extended. This is something which should be straightforward for the government to achieve and would command all-party support."

Blood products are now heat-treated to kill viruses before they are given to patients.

A trust fund was set up by the previous government to assist haemophiliacs who contracted HIV through contaminated blood products.
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08 Apr 99 |  Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
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