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Charges Filed Over Tainted Blood

Thousands Infected With Hepatitis C, HIV In Canada

Nov 21, 2002 | AP

Police filed charges yesterday in what is considered one of Canada's worst public health disasters, a tainted blood scandal that infected thousands of people with HIV and hepatitis C.

The Canadian Red Cross, four doctors, and an American pharmaceutical company were all charged after a five-year investigation by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police task force.

About 1,200 people were infected with HIV and thousands more contracted hepatitis C after receiving tainted blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, some allegedly from US prison inmates.

Although no figures exist on the number of victims who died, organizations involved say there were many deaths. The Canadian Red Cross began screening donors for HIV in 1985 and for hepatitis C in 1990.

The charges include criminal negligence causing bodily harm, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, and common nuisance by endangering the public, which is punishable by up to two years in prison.

The Red Cross and the former director of its blood transfusion service, Dr. Roger Perrault, were accused of not screening out blood donors who might have had HIV. The Red Cross faces six common nuisance charges, and Perrault faces three counts of criminal negligence and seven of common nuisance.

Armour Pharmaceutical Co. of Bridgewater, N.J., was charged with criminal negligence and common nuisance, along with failing to tell the Canadian government of problems with the blood products.

Alloway said Armour's blood products were distributed in Canada after being withdrawn in the United States.

Criminal negligence charges were also filed against former Armour vice president Michael Rodell, and former government health officials John Furesz and Wark Boucher. All four doctors and Armour also were accused of allowing Armour's HIV-infected blood-clotting product to be given to hemophiliacs.

''The Canadian public has the right to expect the safest blood and the safest blood products possible,'' said Superintendent Rod Knecht, who headed the task force.

The task force was formed in 1997 after a judge's report on the Canadian blood system criticized the Red Cross and the government for problems that allowed the tainted blood scandal to occur.

Lawsuits and compensation packages involving the Red Cross and the federal and provincial governments include the creation of a $711 million government fund for those infected.

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