Canadian Red Cross Not Liable for Distributing HIV-Infected Blood Product, Appeals Court Rules
The Ontario Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling and found that the Canadian Red Cross Society is not liable for distributing in the 1980s a blood product that may have contained HIV, the National Post reports. The case involved three hemophilia patients who became infected with HIV in 1985 after taking Factor IX, a blood factor used to treat the blood disease, that was not heat treated to kill the virus. Two of the three patients have since died of AIDS-related complications. A lower court had ruled that the Red Cross was negligent for delaying its transition to the use of heat-treated blood products and had awarded the three plaintiffs damages totaling more than $1.5 million Canadian dollars. However, the appeals court found that the delay was due to regulatory procedure and that the Red Cross "did not impede" that process. The appeals court, disagreeing with the lower court ruling, also said that the government was not required to "expedite the approval process" for heat-treated Factor IX. Kenneth Arenson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada at the request of his clients. "The whole world knows what happened with the delay of heat-treated Factor IX. The three families are devastated, again. The injustice of it is just welling up in them once again," he said. In a similar case decided in April, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the Red Cross was liable for failing to exclude high risk donors from blood banks (Schmidt, National Post, 11/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.