Canadian Supreme Court Upholds Decision Finding Canadian Red Cross at Fault for HIV Infections Through Contaminated Blood
The Canadian Supreme Court yesterday upheld an appeals court ruling that found the Canadian Red Cross negligent "for failing to screen blood donors adequately in the early 1980s" when HIV first made its way into the blood supply, the AP/Nando Times reports (AP/Nando Times, 4/20). The Red Cross must now pay a combined $2.5 million in damages plus interest to one person, still alive, and to the estates of two deceased individuals, all of whom became infected with HIV after receiving tainted blood from the organization between 1983 and 1985. The Lethbridge Herald reports that in upholding the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court found that the Red Cross' protection against HIV-tainted blood in the 1980s was not as effective as measures employed by the American Red Cross. Since no blood test for HIV existed at the time in question, both countries relied on pamphlets "identifying high risk groups and advising members of those groups to exclude themselves." However, the Supreme Court concluded that the Canadian brochures "were not as clear or as effective in deterring high-risk donors." The Herald reports that the court's decision may "bolster" the case of individuals who were infected with hepatitis C in the 1980s, as they have argued that the Canadian Red Cross did not begin testing for the virus "until after many U.S. blood banks had begun testing" (Lethbridge Herald, 4/20).
HHS Panel Urged to Share U.S. Technology
In related news, several health care workers yesterday told HHS' Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability that the United States "should share the technology that makes its blood transfusions among the world's safest to help poorer countries do a better job of screening blood donations for [HIV] and other infectious diseases," the AP/St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. According to the World Health Organization, about 20% of the world's blood supply, or 13 million units, is not tested for diseases, and about 5% to 10% of HIV-positive individuals have been infected through blood transfusions. For example, according to Dr. Eve Lackritz, a scientist with the CDC, U.S. researchers found that in two Kenyan hospitals, 20% of donated blood contained HIV, and "simple tests" available in the United States could prevent the use of such blood. Speaking at the first day of a two-day meeting, others said that in addition to encouraging safety, the United States should also promote blood donation. Today's meeting will focus on ways to increase the number of Americans who donate blood (McQueen, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/19).