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Charges Finally Laid

Tainted-Blood Victims Thought 'Day Would Never Come'

Nov 21, 2002 | Winnipeg Sun

After suffering for years with HIV and hepatitis C he contracted from transfusions of infected blood, Winnipegger James Love is happy the Mounties have finally laid charges.

"Since 1984, I've been attending funerals of friends who have passed," said Love, the vice-president of the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Hemophilia Society. "You relive it all the time, I'm just happy I'm still here today to see (charges laid)."

Love, who required regular transfusions for his hemophilia, was diagnosed with HIV in 1984 and then hepatitis C more than a decade later. He is just one of thousands of affected Canadians who have been waiting for years to hear the results of the RCMP investigation into one of the worst public health disasters in Canadian history.

Lynne Kubin, whose husband, Ed, died in 1996 after contracting HIV through a blood transfusion, let out a big "whoop" when she heard the news.

"My husband went to his grave believing this day would never come," she said yesterday.

The RCMP Blood Task Force laid charges yesterday against the Red Cross, four doctors and an American pharmaceutical company in the tainted-blood scandal of the 1980. More charges could follow.

The charges include criminal negligence causing bodily harm, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Charges of common nuisance by endangering the public as well as a charge of failure to notify under the Food and Drug Act regulations have also been laid.

The Canadian Red Cross Society was charged with six counts of common nuisance by endangering the public. Canadian Red Cross CEO Pierre Duplessis apologized to the victims of tainted blood yesterday afternoon but wouldn't comment on the charges.

About 1,100 Canadians became infected with blood-borne HIV and between 10,000 and 20,000 others contracted hepatitis C after receiving tainted blood products before testing for HIV began in 1985.

Screening for hepatitis C began in 1990, four years after the United States began testing donations for the disease that affects the liver.

Of 25 hemophiliacs in Manitoba who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, Love said only six are still alive. About 65 hemophiliacs in this province contracted hepatitis C, Love said.

The charges may open the door for others potentially about 5,000 Canadians to receive compensation from a $1.2-billion government fund to help those who received tainted blood.

Kubin called on the federal-provincial task force to provide compensation to those infected with hepatitis C between 1986 and 1990.

She also pressed the province, which has not responded to a funding request for a comprehensive care plan for hemophiliacs made in January, to take the issue seriously.

"I have four grandchildren now who have hemophilia and I worry every day that something (like this) could happen again," she said.

A spokesperson for NDP Health Minister Dave Chomiak said there are plans to meet with officials from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to discuss the request.

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