The police filed charges today in what is considered one of Canada’s worst public health disasters, a tainted blood scandal that infected thousands of people with H.I.V. and hepatitis C.
The Canadian Red Cross, four doctors and a pharmaceutical company in the United States were all charged after a five-year investigation by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police task force. About 1,200 people were infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and thousands more contracted hepatitis C after receiving tainted blood and blood products in the 1970’s and 1980’s, including some that may have been donated by prison inmates in the United States.
Although no figures exist on the number of victims who died, groups involved say there were many deaths. The Canadian Red Cross began screening donors for H.I.V. 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 H.I.V. The Red Cross faces charges of common nuisance, and Dr. Perrault faces counts of criminal negligence and of common nuisance.
Armour Pharmaceutical Company, of Collegeville, Pa., was charged with criminal negligence and common nuisance, along with failing to tell the government of problems with the blood products.
Criminal negligence charges were also filed against Michael Rodell, the former vice president of Armour, and against two former government officials. All four doctors and Armour were also accused of allowing an infected blood-clotting product to be given to hemophiliacs.