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UK’s Contaminated blood scandal

  • Context (IE): Britain is expected to compensate thousands of people who were infected with HIV or hepatitis via contaminated blood.
  • The inquiry was launched in 2017. Almost 3,000 people were estimated to have died of complications.
  • The inquiry was expected to look into the cases of deadly diseases from transfusions of infected blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)

  • The NHS is an inclusive public health service under government administration.
  • It was established by the National Health Service Act of 1946 and subsequent legislation in 1948.
  • The entire population of the UK is covered, and health services are provided free of cost to the public.
  • It is the world’s fifth-largest employer and the largest non-military public organisation.

Contaminated blood scandal

  • During the 1970s and 1980s, people who had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia or needed transfusions after childbirth or surgery were given blood infected with the HIV virus & hepatitis.

Factor VIII

  • Factor VIII was considered to be a “wonder drug” for patients with classical haemophilia and Von Willebrand Syndrome, more efficient and convenient than earlier treatments.
  • Von Willebrand Syndrome is a bleeding disorder in which the patient’s blood cannot clot fully.
  • The NHS introduced this processed pharmaceutical product in the 1970s, created by pooling plasma from many donors. Even one infected donor could compromise the entire batch of the protein.
  • The product used by the NHS was imported from the United States, where a large volume of donated plasma at the time came from prisoners and users of intravenous drugs who were paid for their blood.


  • Inquiry estimated that more than 30,000 people were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or as haemophiliacs.
  • Several reports have stated that school children were subjected to medical trials using infected blood products, even without consent.
  • There is evidence that experts called on fellow doctors “to identify patients suitable for clinical trials” and, more specifically, “previously untreated patients”.
  • Evidence suggests that the British government chose to turn a blind eye to the situation, mainly due to financial considerations.

Warnings by international agencies

  • As early as 1953, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the hepatitis risks associated with the mass pooling of plasma products.
  • In 1974, the UN agency warned Britain not to import blood from countries with a high prevalence of hepatitis, such as the US.
  • Another warning of the risk of contracting HIV from blood products was issued in 1982.
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