The families and victims infected with Hepatitis C and HIV from NHS transfusions took the rare step of reading out a statement immediately prior to the start of the Penrose Inquiry into scandal.
Their solicitor Patrick McGuire of Thompsons solicitors said that the victims totally respected Lord Penrose’s decision not to hear opening statements and to go straight into hearing evidence from witnesses.
However McGuire said those affected by what they described as ‘a disaster’ wanted to mark the occasion by explaining their perspective on the proceedings.
Mr McGuire’s statement read:
“HIV and Hepatitis C have had a devastating effect on the lives of the victims. They have experienced social stigma, financial hardship and their infection has impacted heavily on the lives of their families.
The fact that everyone whom I represent in relation to the Penrose Inquiry was infected through the acts and omissions of the NHS, makes the tragedy of their plight so much more profound.
This personal aspect is crucial to obtaining a full understanding of how individuals have been affected by what they can only regard as a disaster.
The victims’ approach to the proceedings can be summed up in a direct quote from one of those affected, and who will be taking part in the Inquiry.
“Everyone's lives, whether patients or families, have been seriously blighted by the disaster. By signing up as core participants patients and families are committed to helping the Inquiry get to the bottom of what happened and the effect it has had upon them”.
Those affected whether through suffering personally or losing a loved one as a result of HIV or Hepatitis C are interested in every aspect of the inquiry but have the following specific issues which they trust Lord Penrose shall fully explore:
- Why was there a two-year delay in the introduction of heat treatment which would have inactivated Hepatits C, in Scotland compared with England?
- Why was there a similar delay in Scotland in the introduction of donor testing, which could have prevented new cases of Hep C?
- What are the full circumstances of the 32 haemophilia patients and their families, the so-called ‘Edinburgh cohort’ who were subject to clinical research exploring whether AIDS was caused by a transmissible agent in blood products for over a decade without their knowledge or consent
- Why was there a delay of three years before informing the 16 patients in the above trials that they had been infected with HIV.
- Why did commercial Factor VIII continue to be used after clear recommendations to the contrary in 1983?
- Was the information given to patients before their treatment with blood or blood products detailed enough to enable them to make an informed judgment?
- What was the impact of the poor standards of the blood protein factory at PFC Liberton?
- Why was it acceptable for the State owned Protein Fractionation Centre at Liberton to operate to poorer standards than commercial equivalents?
- What are the full effects of these infections on patients, including the financial, and impact on their families.
Victims and their families want truth, honesty and a positive outcome for the future from this Inquiry and are committed to playing their part to achieve that outcome
Most of all they want lessons to be learned in order that no person or family will have to suffer in the way they have. They want to make Scotland and the UK a safer place”.