Around 500 victims of the contaminated blood scandal will be able to sue the government for damages, a court ruled last week.
The group, a mix of haemophiliac survivors and relatives of those killed by contaminated blood, were granted a group litigation order. They can now begin proceedings in the High Court.
Department of Health (DoH) lawyers had argued that the move was “premature” as an inquiry into the scandal could take place.
Steven Snowden QC, representing claimants, told the hearing of evidence suggesting that the risks of contaminated blood were known “from at least 1983”. But patients were not informed until 1986-87.
He said it would be “unconscionable” for the DoH to rely on earlier settlements reached in the 1990s because information had been withheld from victims.
Lead claimant Jason Evans was just four years old when his father Jonathan died after being infected with HIV through contaminated Factor VIII treatment.
He said he was “elated” by the court ruling but also said his father had raised concerns with his doctors about Factor VIII in 1984. He had been told “there was nothing to worry about, this is sensationalism”.
Others who were given contaminated blood have had a similar experience – and say it’s still happening today.
Michelle Tolley was infected with Hepatitis C after being given infected blood in 1987 – but didn’t find out until November 2015. She had gone to her doctor in the 1990s but was refused a test.
“Even now I have a friend whose GP refused to test her,” she told Socialist Worker.
Theresa May announced that there would be an investigation on 11 July. But no chair has yet been appointed. The DoH has extended consultations on the inquiry until 18 October.
Michelle said the DoH must have nothing to do with any inquiry. She added, “It should be for everybody who has been infected or affected by contaminated blood. And we need to be able to compel people to take the witness stand.”
The scandal is continuing to destroy people’s lives. Michelle said, “It’s a devastating thing to go through.
“A few weeks ago a woman I know died. She was fine and everything was clear, then she was given six months to live. She was dead within two weeks.
“I’ve got a scan coming up and it’s awful. I feel like I’ve got a death sentence hanging over my head. And I’ve never once been offered support.