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Canadian Red Cross Guilty of Distributing Tainted Blood

Jun 1, 2005 | The Canadian Red Cross Society pleaded guilty Monday in Ontario Superior Court to distributing blood tainted with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV virus) and Hepatitis C virus to hemophilia patients in 1980's and early 1990’s.

As estimated, as many as 1000 patients got infected with HIV and more than 20,000 with Hepatitis C as a result of using the tainted blood. The tainted blood is believed to have killed about 3,000 patients.

Dr. Pierre Duplessis, the Secretary General of the Red Cross Society, delivered a statement to the courtroom.

The statement of Dr. Duplessis said "The Canadian Red Cross Society is deeply sorry for the injury and death caused to those who were infected by blood or blood products it distributed, and for the suffering caused to families and loved ones of those who were harmed.

We profoundly regret that the Canadian Red Cross Society did not develop and adopt more quickly measures to reduce the risks of infection, and we accept responsibility through our plea for having distributed harmful products to those who relied upon us for their health."

In response, the persecutors decided to drop 5 counts of more serious criminal charges. Instead, the Red Cross Society received a nominal monetary penalty, a fine of $4,000.

Federal prosecutor John Ayre said that the fine was adequate given the Red Cross Society is a humanitarian organization and it has no longer engaged in blood collection or distribution.

However, some victims did not think an apology was enough and pointed out that the Red Cross Society admitted violation of the Food and Drug Act, but no criminal guilt.

Other than the fine, Dr. Duplessis’ statement indicated that the Canadian Red Cross Society would donate $1.2 million for scholarships for the families of victims and a research project.

The organization has already paid $55 million to the victims.

The Canadian Red Cross Society stopped its blood operations in 1998 and the Canadian Blood Services took over the blood operations.

The court proceedings Monday are not the end of the whole legal wrangling. Some individuals are still facing charges of criminal negligence and endangering the public for allegedly allowing tainted blood to be provided to hemophilia patients.

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