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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 15:11 GMT
Blood victims 'may sue' drug firms
Blood
Contaminated blood products infected hundreds
People in Scotland who contracted hepatitis C from infected blood products have been considering suing the US drug companies that manufactured them.

It follows successful claims in the US for damages by haemophiliacs, where medical notes detailing batch numbers of blood products were successfully traced.

MSPs were earlier urged to support a special fund to compensate people who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

Members of the Scottish Parliament's finance committee were asked to approve new budgetary proposals which would allow for an expanded compensation scheme.

Andrew Gunn
Andrew Gunn may sue for compensation

The Scottish National Party wants cash payments for more than 500 people infected by blood products or transfusions before 1988.

So far, the Scottish Executive has refused to offer compensation, on the grounds that an effective method of screening blood was not available before 1991.

Many of those infected by hepatitis C - a virus which attacks the liver - have been left with serious health problems.

Earlier this month an expert group recommended that a fund should be set up immediately to make ex-gratia payments for victims who received contaminated blood, blood products or tissue from the NHS in Scotland.

'Hot air'

But Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm appeared to rule out blanket payments and said the executive would consider targeting support at those who needed it most.

He said there were complex medical, legal and financial considerations to take into account.

Campaigners accused Mr Chisholm of using delaying tactics after he refused to back the recommendation and have vowed to fight on.

Hepatitis C sufferer Andrew Gunn, 27, from Inverness, said political arguments were designed to confuse the issue.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "Moral obligation"

He said: "It's just the latest in a long round of blowing hot air to get out of any responsibility.

"If this came out, people would have to stand trial. Politicians, senior health officials and civil servants who took the decisions would go to jail."

Mr Gunn said he hoped lawyers in the US could make a compensation claim for him and other sufferers.

"With their expertise in this subject they can follow the batch numbers from where they were harvested, match them up with my records and hopefully sue them," he said.

SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon aims to win the support of MSPs on the influential finance committee to set up a larger compensation fund.

'Right the wrong'

She wants money to be sidelined from other departmental budgets over the next three years and allocated to a compensation trust.

Her proposal was tabled during a meeting of the finance committee on Tuesday when it considered the draft budget for 2003-04.

She said: "It's a moral obligation we have as a society to people infected in the health service.

"For that reason I think it's fair that the burden for paying that moral debt should be shared among everybody and it shouldn't be just taken from the health budget."

In a letter to committee convenor Des McNulty, Ms Sturgeon said the victims of the tragedy needed "a firm decision in principle from the parliament now".

She said the committee should amend the draft budget "to right the wrong they have suffered and that has been compounded by the executive's refusal to implement the expert group's recommendation".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Eleanor Bradford reports
"The haemophilia society has urged more sufferers to come forward"
See also:

06 Nov 02 | Scotland
04 Nov 02 | Health
11 Dec 01 | Scotland
29 Aug 01 | Scotland
23 May 01 | Scotland
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
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