Reuters Health Information (2005-05-31): Canadian Red Cross fined for tainted blood scandal
Canadian Red Cross fined for tainted blood scandal
Last Updated: 2005-05-31 13:00:09 -0400 (Reuters Health)
TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Red Cross Society was
fined C$5000 ($4000) on Monday for its part in distributing tainted
blood products that infected more than 15,000 Canadians with HIV and
hepatitis C in what is dubbed the worst public health tragedy in the
The charity will provide C$1.5 million for a scholarship fund for
students affected by the tragedy and for a project to improve health
"Red Cross deeply regrets not developing and adopting measures more
quickly to reduce the risk of infection," Canadian Red Cross chief
executive, Pierre Duplessis, said in a statement.
"We could have and should have done more and we accept
responsibility for that. We are very sorry for the suffering that has
caused and apologize to those who were infected and their families."
Around 1000 Canadians were infected with HIV before the Red Cross
started testing blood. Up to 20,000 people are estimated to have been
infected with hepatitis C.
The charity, which was stripped of its blood supply operations
following the scandal, pleaded guilty in an Ontario superior court to
violating the Food and Drugs Act for distributing the contaminated
As part of a plea agreement, the authorities withdrew six charges of common nuisance by endangering the public.
The settlement comes about 2 years after the police charged the Red
Cross and others for failing to warn the public about the risks
associated with unscreened blood, and for failing to test blood donated
during the 1980s for hepatitis C or HIV.
"This is a historic day without a doubt. This is the first time that
it made clear that at the heart of the tainted blood tragedy people
broke the law, and by breaking the law people died," said 37-year old
John Plater, a lawyer and member of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.
But Plater, who was infected with HIV and hepatitis C, was angry
that there had still been no deal on compensation for the victims of
"The most obscene thing in all of this, is here we are 20 years
later, the Red Cross has finally been forced to accept their
responsibility in this and we still don't have a federal government
that is providing compensation to everybody," he said.
"No one is brought back to life and this is not over. It's only been
because victims have constantly pressured and pushed and had to drag
people involved to the table that we have gotten this far."
The Canadian Red Cross has since transferred its blood operations to
a government-funded agency, and officials at the agency when decisions
were made to distribute the blood are no longer there.
Former Red Cross Medical Director Roger Perrault has been charged
with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and common nuisance by
endangering the public.
The charges allege that Perrault and three other doctors knew enough
during this period to warn blood recipients of the dangers and screen
potential donors to reduce risks to the system. The trial is expected
to continue later this year.
The case against Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Armour, which sold a
blood clotting drug to the Red Cross, is also in the courts. The firm
faces charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
($1= $1.26 Canadian)