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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Hepatitis patients win compensation
People were infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated blood
People were infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated blood
A group of patients from Wales infected with the Hepatitis C virus following contaminated blood transfusions have won thousands in damages at the High Court.

They made their claims against the Cardiff-based Velindre NHS Trust, which is responsible for running the blood service in Wales

Donor giving blood at a hospital
Mothers and young children were affected
Mr Justice Burton ruled that all of the 114 claimants from around the UK were entitled to compensation.

Individuals in six test cases will receive between 10,000 and more than 210,000.

They were infected with Hepatitis C, which affects the liver, after receiving blood transfusions, blood products or transplanted organs.

Those affected include young children infected while being treated for leukaemia and mothers who received blood transfusions or blood products immediately after childbirth.

Others were infected during blood transfusions or through blood products received during surgery, or while being treated for a blood disorder.

Cases

The six "lead" cases highlighted the judge were:

  • A woman in her mid-50s infected by a blood transfusion during routine surgery.

    Medication failed and she developed cirrhosis. She has since undergone a liver transplant.

    Her total payout, including compensation for financial losses while she has been ill, was more than 210,000.

  • A man in his early 70s was infected through a blood transfusion given after heart surgery.

    A course of medication failed and he now has active liver disease (cirrhosis).

    He was awarded a total of more than 53,000

  • A woman, now in her late teens was affected when she was nine through a unit of plasma given to her as part of treatment for a serious liver condition.

    Her first course of treatment failed, but she has yet to suffer active liver disease.

    She was awarded a total of 37,000.

  • A mother in her mid-thirties who was infected via a blood transfusion given after childbirth.

    She has suffered lethargy and a serious psychiatric reaction, but she has refused treatment because she was worried it would make her too tired to look after her children.

    She was awarded a total of 26,000.

  • A man infected when he was nine through a blood transfusions after an road accident. His infection cleared spontaneously, but he had a severe psychiatric reaction to his diagnosis.

    He was awarded a total of more than 10,000, with the assurance of more if he becomes ill again.

  • A 23-year-old also infected in a blood transfusion after an accident.

    One course of medication was successful, but he relapsed. A second course was successful.

    He too was awarded 10,000, with the possibility of further payouts if necessary.


    This is a landmark judgement of huge importance to thousands of other people ... who have been infected with Hepatitis C by NHS blood products

    Lord Morris of Manchester, Haemophilia Society

    Lawyers for the claimants hailed the judgement as a "landmark decision".

    They said that the Consumer Protection Act, 1987, and the EU Product Liability Directive on which the act is based had strengthened consumer law.

    The claims were brought against the National Blood Authority, in England and the Velindre NHS Trust in Wales who contested the action.

    The organisations who will be affected by the ruling are the NHS bodies who have been responsible for the production and supply of blood and blood products over the period since March 1, 1988, by the National Blood Transfusion Service.

    Important precedent

    The court was told the claimants in the case had been infected with Hepatitis C since March 1, 1988, "in a wide range of circumstances", according to Michael Brooke QC.

    The case is important because it sets a precedent by establishing a legal link between medical liability and consumer rights.

    It is the first multi-party action to go to court under the Consumer Protection Act, which became law in 1988.

    Lord Morris of Manchester, national president of the Haemophilia Society, said: "This is a landmark judgement of huge importance to thousands of other people, in addition to those specifically in this case, who have been infected with Hepatitis C by NHS blood products."

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