Former British Health Secretary Calls Hemophiliac HIV Transmissions ‘Needless,’ Calls on Government for Compensation
Great Britain's former Secretary of State for Health Lord Owen, speaking on the BBC Radio 4's "Face the Facts," said that the transmission of HIV and hepatitis to thousands of British hemophiliacs through tainted blood products could have been prevented if the government followed through on a plan he set forth in 1975 and called on the government to compensate victims, BBC News reports. Owen said that the Department of Health neglected to follow through on a plan he devised that would have made Great Britain's blood supply "self-sufficient" by allocating money to stop the importation of blood products from the United States where blood donors were paid at the time, a practice thought to endanger the blood supply because payments may "encourage" those at risk for HIV to donate (BBC News, 8/3). Owen said that the imports continued without his knowledge and he only realized that the plan had never been implemented when in the 1980s many hemophiliacs were diagnosed with HIV. "I was very upset that the decision I'd taken in 1975 had not been fulfilled," he said, noting there was "resistance at the Department of Health at the time to putting up the money" (Birmingham Post, 8/3). "I think some people felt this was an unproven danger, that we were putting money in without knowing what the viruses were, but then prevention is everything in health," Owen added, saying he had "no doubt" that "a lot less people would be suffering" now if the measures had been taken. Owen called on the government to offer additional compensation to hemophiliacs who contracted "life-threatening" diseases from blood products. An estimated 800 hemophiliacs have died of AIDS-related complications and "thousands more" contracted hepatitis C. The government has already paid some compensation to those who contracted HIV (BBC News, 8/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.