French High Court Dismisses Case Against Health Officials Accused of Giving Patients HIV-Tainted Blood
France's highest court on Wednesday dismissed a case against 30 health care workers who had been accused of giving patients HIV-contaminated blood in the mid-1980s, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Von Derschau, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/18). The lawsuit was brought against Health Ministry doctors and officials for failing to remove blood products that contained HIV from the nation's blood supply in the mid-1980s. Nearly 4,000 people, mostly hemophiliacs, were infected with HIV, and hundreds of the patients who received the tainted blood products have since died of AIDS-related causes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9/02). The defendants were charged with involuntary homicide or injury and poisoning or complicity in poisoning, according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/18). The suit accused officials of delaying the introduction of U.S. HIV blood-screening tests until a similar French product could be developed, as well as not taking basic steps to limit HIV-contaminated blood from entering transfusion stocks, according to Agence France-Presse.
No Legal Basis for Charges
The appeals court ruled that there was no legal basis to charge the health officials because they did not act with the "intention of causing death" (Agence France-Presse, 6/18). In addition, the court ruled that the health care workers did not have "knowledge of the necessarily deadly character" of the blood products when they gave the patients transfusions, according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/18). The former head of research and former president of the National Blood Transfusion Center were convicted of wrongdoing in the tainted-blood scandal in 1993 and given jail sentences, according to Agence France-Presse. In 1999, Edmond Herve, the former health minister, was also convicted but not given a jail term, and former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius was acquitted in a special court (Agence France-Presse, 6/18).