UK opens inquiry into tainted-blood scandal | News | DW | 01.05.2019

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UK opens inquiry into tainted-blood scandal

British Prime Minister Theresa May has described the tainted-blood scandal as "a tragedy that never should have happened." At least 2,400 people died from contaminated blood in the 1970s and '80s.

Witness testimony began in the UK's long-awaited Infected Blood Inquiry on Tuesday. The probe is examining how tainted blood was used to treat thousands of people during the 1970s and '80s.

Patients — many of whom were hemophiliacs — became infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through the contaminated blood products, most of which were imported from the United States by British health services.

Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was traced to high-risk donors, including US prison inmates, who had been paid to give blood samples.

Derek Martindale, a hemophiliac infected with hepatitis C and HIV from infected blood products he was given as a child, was the first witness to be questioned during the hearing. 

Recalling how he discovered his HIV positive status, he said: "I was told I was HIV positive, told I had a year to live and told not to tell anyone including my family and my parents [because of the stigma]," reported Britain's Sky News. 

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'Worst treatment disaster' 

As the hearings got underway, British Prime Minister Theresa May showed her determination to find answers. She ordered the inquiry two years ago, after previous probes were branded a whitewash by campaigners. 

"Today will begin a journey which will be dedicated to getting to the truth […] and in delivering justice to everyone involved," May said.

Victims accuse the UK government of failing to take responsibility for what's been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of Britain's public health care system.

Some 1,697 people have been appointed as core participants in the inquiry.

Over the next few days, an initial selection of 12 witnesses will be called to testify to the inquiry team.

"If the government truly wants to do the right thing, they will provide a statement accepting their liability now," said Jason Evans, whose father died in 1993 after receiving tainted blood.

The inquiry, which is being livestreamed, is expected to continue until mid-October. 

kw/cmk (AP)

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