Government Attorneys Drop Charges Against Canadian Doctor in Tainted Blood Case
Canadian government attorneys on Friday dropped all remaining charges related to blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C against Roger Perrault, former director of the blood transfusion service of the Canadian Red Cross, the CP/Toronto Star reports (Bonnell, CP/Toronto Star, 1/19). John Pearson, prosecutor from the Ontario Supreme Court, withdrew all six remaining charges against Perrault because Pearson said there is no longer a "reasonable prospect of conviction" (Noronha, AP/Google.com, 1/18).
A Canadian judge in October 2007 acquitted Perrault, three other individuals and New Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Company of charges related to the case. More than 1,000 people contracted HIV and an estimated 20,000 people contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood and blood products during the mid-1980s. At least 3,000 people are known to have died as a result of receiving tainted blood products. Seven of the people who contracted HIV were named as plaintiffs in the trial.
In November 2002, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police filed 32 charges against Perrault; 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; Michael Rodell, former Armour vice president; Armour and the Canadian Red Cross Society in relation to the blood contamination. The charges filed included criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The charges against Armour were related 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 alleged that Armour knew the process was "inadequate" to kill HIV but continued to distribute Factorate to hemophiliacs in Canada.
Prosecutors in May 2005 dropped criminal charges against the Canadian Red Cross (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/2/07). The charges against the group were dropped in exchange for it paying 5,000 Canadian dollars -- or about $4,800 -- for violating Canada's Food and Drugs Act, as well as about 1.5 million Canadian dollars -- or about $1.4 million -- for medical research and scholarships for victims' families, the CanWest News Service/Edmonton Journal reports (Huber, CanWest News Service/Edmonton Journal, 1/19). In addition, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2006 completed a federal compensation package worth about one billion Canadian dollars -- or about $970 million -- for about 5,000 people infected with hepatitis C because of the blood products (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/2/07).
Pearson told the court that because of Perrault's exoneration when he was acquitted in October 2007, there was no likelihood of conviction. He added, "The charges before this court relate to a period of time earlier than that covered by the Toronto charges, when knowledge about AIDS was even more rudimentary." Perrault's attorney Eddie Greenspan said his client should never have been charged. "Not every tragedy requires a scapegoat," he said, adding that the prosecution's "withdrawal of the charges today confirm what we always knew: that no one person in Canada was responsible for this tragedy" (CP/Toronto Star, 1/19).
John Plater of the Canadian Hemophilia Society said he is shocked and disappointed with the decision. The case has not "been about blaming a particular person," Plater said, adding, "It is about questioning peoples' role in this situation and in the limited circumstances where it appears their behavior may have been criminal -- having that tested in court." Plater said the "system has let us down again" (CanWest News Service/Edmonton Journal, 1/19).