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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 18:04 GMT
Legal call for Hepatitis inquiry
Blood bag
Relatives are demanding an inquiry into how blood was contaminated
Lawyers acting for more than 100 people who were infected with Hepatitis C through blood transfusions have begun a legal battle for a public inquiry.

Previous calls for inquiries into how hundreds of people contracted Hepatitis C through transfusions have been rejected by Scottish ministers.

Now relatives are calling for a judicial review at the Court of Session into the deaths of two people.

Lawyers argue an inquiry must be held as they died in the care of the state.

Thousands of people in the UK were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C during the 1970s and 1980s after being given contaminated blood products.

Although the Hepatitis C virus was not identified until 1989, the NHS suspected a virus was present in the blood supply and some tests were available from the mid-1980s.

What is being complained about is systematic failure, not individual negligence.
Aidan O'Neill QC

Counsel for the relatives, Aidan O'Neill QC, claimed that although the action had been raised by two individuals, they were "symptomatic of a whole number of other relatives".

"In a sense these are representative actions and the court should not close its eyes to the broader context of them," he said.

"What is being complained about is systematic failure, not individual negligence. We do not know, but it appears to be systematic failure."

An inquiry was needed to "raise real issues that will require to be investigated", added Mr O'Neill.

Heart treatment

The action has been raised by the relatives of Eileen O'Hara and the Reverend David Black, who both died in 2003.

Mrs O'Hara had received blood transfusions while having heart treatment.

Mr Black was a haemophiliac who had received treatment with blood products and was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1990.

Many patients received payments of between 20,000 and 45,000 under a scheme introduced by UK and Scottish ministers in 2003.

Ruled out

But repeated calls for a public inquiry have fallen on deaf ears.

In April 2006 the Scottish Parliament's health committee called on the Scottish Executive to hold a public inquiry into patients who had contracted the virus through blood products.

However, this was ruled out once again in February by Health Minister Andy Kerr.

The hearing will take four days, with Lord Mackay of Drumadoon expected to give a decision at a later date.




SEE ALSO
Scots blood virus probe ruled out
19 Feb 07 |  Scotland
Ministers in 'killer virus' drive
26 Sep 06 |  Scotland
Kerr rules out blood virus probe
16 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Change urged after Hep C reports
23 May 06 |  Scotland
MSPs call for Hep C cases inquiry
18 Apr 06 |  Scotland
Patients' Hep C detection 'delay'
13 Apr 06 |  Scotland

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