Doctor at Center of Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal Must Stand Trial Despite Poor Health, Judge Says
A Canadian judge on Wednesday ruled that a doctor accused of allowing an HIV-positive blood-clotting product to be administered to hemophilia patients will stand trial despite his poor health, the CP/Ottawa Sun reports. Roger Perrault, former director of the blood transfusion service of the Canadian Red Cross, has been charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count of common nuisance endangering the public for his alleged role in a scandal in the 1980s and early 1990s in which nearly 2,000 people contracted HIV and an estimated 20,000 people contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood and blood products. However, Perrault, who is 68 years old and has had a heart attack and undergone an angioplasty and bypass surgery, had applied for the charges to be stayed on the grounds of poor health, a move that would have effectively withdrawn the charges before any evidence was presented. However, Justice Mary Lou Benetto said in her ruling that Perrault failed to show that the court proceedings, which could last 13 months, would pose a "real or substantial" risk to his health. Benetto said the trial needs to proceed in the interest of the public (Brautigam, CP/Ottawa Sun, 8/4).
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in November 2002 filed 32 charges against Armour Pharmaceutical Company, the Canadian Red Cross, Perrault and three other doctors in relation to the tainted blood scandal. John Furesz, former director of the Bureau of Biologics at Health Canada; Wark Boucher, former chief of the blood products division of the Bureau of Biologics; and Perrault each were charged with criminal negligence and common nuisance for failing to screen patients properly. Criminal negligence charges also have been filed against Michael Rodell, former Armour vice president. The criminal negligence charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, while the common nuisance charge carries a prison sentence of up to two years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/10/02). Prosecutors in May dropped criminal charges against the Canadian Red Cross in exchange for $4,000 for violating Canada's Food and Drugs Act and an additional approximately $1.2 million for medical research and scholarships for victims' families. The Canadian Red Cross already has paid about $55 million to victims through a separate fund (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/31).