Prosecution in Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal Asks for Bypass of Preliminary Hearing
Prosecutors who last month filed 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 have requested a preferred indictment in hopes of bypassing a preliminary hearing and bringing the defendants directly to trial, the Toronto Star reports. A preferred indictment would allow the prosecution to go ahead with the trial without first convincing the judge that there is enough evidence to convict the defendants. Earl Levy, who is representing one of the doctors, said the request for a preferred indictment is "an unusual move," adding that the preliminary hearing -- where defense lawyers are usually permitted to cross-examine witnesses -- is "very good preparation for trial." Levy added, "We are waiting with interest to hear what reasons the crown is seeking to deny these accused the same rights that are afforded to those who are charged with murder or treason or trafficking." The attorney general's office would not comment on the prosecution's request for a preferred indictment, according to spokesperson Brendan Crawley (Talaga, Toronto Star, 12/7).
In November, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police filed 32 charges against four doctors, 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. Nearly 2,000 people contracted HIV and an estimated 20,000 people contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood and blood products. 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. Criminal negligence charges were also filed against Dr. Michael Rodell, former Armour vice president. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21).