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Wednesday, July 22, 1998 Published at 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK

UK Politics

Hepatitis sufferers in Commons protest

More than 4,000 haemophiliacs were infected by contaminated blood

Seven haemophiliacs chained themselves to the railings outside the House of Commons in protest at the government's failure to give compensation to those infected with hepatitis C from infected blood supplies.

Other campaigners laid 90 lilies on the steps of 10 Downing Street - one for each of the infected haemophiliacs who have died so far.

The symbolic gesture was made by a group of sufferers, their families and MPs as they handed in a petition with 6,000 names, calling on the government to "accept its responsibility" for the tragedy.

They complain that those similarly infected with the HIV virus have been compensated, but that the situation of haemophiliacs has been ignored.

Waiting for a reply

It is believed that almost all of the 4,800 people with haemophilia or related bleeding disorders who were treated before 1986 were infected through contaminated blood.

[ image: The Haemophilia Society wants government compensation]
The Haemophilia Society wants government compensation
The Police chose not to intervene at the House of Commons protest and the seven haemophiliacs eventually freed themselves after about half an hour.

Members of the Haemophilia Society and its sub-group, the Manor House Group, a charity for people with haemophilia and hepatitis C, met the Health Secretary Frank Dobson in September to discuss compensation.

They have heard nothing from the Department of Health since then. A spokesperson said the government was still considering its position.

Moral duty

The Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, Karin Pappenheim, said: "The government has a moral responsibility to provide financial recompense to people with haemophilia infected with hepatitis C through their NHS treatment with contaminated blood products in the same way as has been done for those infected with HIV."

Hepatitis C is the most important cause of chronic hepatitis and liver disease.

Eighty-five per cent of people with it develop chronic hepatitis. Around 20% develop cirrhosis of the liver. The disease also brings a higher risk of liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through the blood, for example, by sharing needles, and through sexual intercourse.

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