Canadian Police File Charges in Tainted Blood Scandal That Caused Thousands of HIV, Hepatitis C Infections
As part of a five-year investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police yesterday filed 32 charges against four doctors, New Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Company and the Canadian Red Cross Society in relation to the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, when blood and blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C infected thousands of Canadians, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. Nearly 2,000 people contracted HIV and an estimated 20,000 people contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood and blood products, according to the Globe and Mail. The charges filed include criminal negligence causing bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and common nuisance by endangering the public, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The charges against Armour relate to its blood product for hemophiliacs called Factorate. The product, which helps blood to clot, was heat-treated to kill HIV; however, the Canadian police allege that Armour knew the process was "inadequate" to kill HIV, but the company continued to distribute Factorate to hemophiliacs in Canada. Armour was also charged with violating Canada's Food and Drug Act, which is punishable by a fine (Picard, Globe and Mail, 11/21). Criminal negligence charges were also filed against Dr. Michael Rodell, former Armour vice president (Cohen, AP/Washington Post, 11/21). Three other doctors -- Roger Perrault, former director of the blood transfusion service of the Canadian Red Cross; John Furesz, former director of the Bureau of Biologics at Health Canada; and Wark Boucher, former chief of the blood products division of the Bureau of Biologics -- were also charged with criminal negligence and common nuisance for failing to screen patients properly. The Canadian Red Cross faces common nuisance charges for:
- Failing to take "adequate measures" to screen out HIV-positive donors;
- Failing to ask "specific questions" in its blood-donor questionnaire that could have kept tainted blood out of the system; and
- "Unreasonable delays" in buying tests for screening the blood supply for HIV and hepatitis C. The Canadian Red Cross did not begin screening for HIV until eight months after a test became available on the market and did not screen for hepatitis C until four years after a surrogate test was on the market.
The individuals charged in the case will appear in court in two groups, in Hamilton, Ontario, on Dec. 10 and in Toronto, Ontario, on Dec. 11. According to the Globe and Mail, additional charges might also be filed (Globe and Mail, 11/21). The Canadian AIDS Society said in a statement that the organization "looks forward to seeing if all the players responsible for the blood system at the time of the scandal, including those from all levels of federal and provincial governments, are included in the ongoing investigation" (Canadian AIDS Society release, 11/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.