Blood scandal inquiry judge hails ‘dignity, courage and resilience’ of witnesses
Witnesses who have been “infected and affected” by the contaminated scandal have shown “impressive dignity, courage and resilience”, the inquiry chair has said.
At the conclusion of the two-week hearing in Edinburgh, the chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry paid tribute to them.
Sir Brian Langstaff (pictured) noted that it was two years to the day since the investigation was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May, and said: “I think it shows that anniversaries are not a cause for celebration in our our case, they are a cause for reflection.
“There are a number of people who might, had matters been quicker, have been here to see it.
“We do not have the luxury of time.”
Praising the witnesses, he said: “In each case, those who have given evidence have shown impressive dignity, impressive courage and impressing resilience.”
The former High Court judge also appealed for anyone who had been impacted by the contaminated blood scandal to give a statement to the inquiry.
Sir Brian said: “It does not matter that you feel that other people may have more-compelling stories, more-distressing stories, more detailed stories, or can talk about more people in their families who have been affected than you can, or that your story simply seems so repetitive of that which has been told by others.
“Every single story plays a part, even if it’s a part that reinforces that which has already been said.
“One pebble does not make a beach; a lot of pebbles do.
“A statement may be a pebble, it may be a rock, but all of them have value.”
He added: “If we are to be faithful to my undertaking to honour the terms of reference and to answer them as best I can, then I need as much information as can be given, and each of you who has been infected and affected has a degree of that information.
“Please don’t undervalue the contribution you can make. If you have a contribution to make, please make it.”
His closing remarks followed the final witness of the day, a widow whose husband was infected with HIV and hepatitis C, although the latter condition was not revealed until more than 10 years after his death from Aids.
She told the inquiry how the couple met while dancing in 1963 when they were 19 and were married the following year.
The woman’s late husband had severe haemophilia, requiring regular treatment involving blood injections which left him with the two illnesses.
In addition to never finding out he had tested positive for hepatitis, there was a five-month gap between doctors telling him he had HIV and when they got the results.
She explained how her husband asked why doctors failed to tell him he had tested positive for the virus, which would develop into Aids, and was told “doctors don’t like telling you that unless you ask yourself.
“That was the answer he got.”
Her husband was “horrified” about not being told his HIV status, “not for himself but for me and my son.”
Giving evidence in Edinburgh, she said: “Why was it that people were diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C but were never told?
“In my husband’s case it was years. As for hepatitis C, he died without ever knowing he had it.
“They did not care what effect it had on families. Myself and my son could have been infected – that would have totally destroyed my husband and he would never have been able to live with himself even though it wouldn’t have been his fault.”
The woman, speaking anonymously, told of how her son had to put his dad’s body in a body bag to be taken away because the undertaker was unable to deal with someone who had Aids.
She added: “I would like to know why my husband and others died far too early. He never got to spend more time with myself or our son.
“Is that the last memory our son will have of his dad? He helped put him in a body bag and see him taken away – no son should ever see that.”
Her son, 24 years old at the time of his father’s death, “struggled for years” to cope with the loss.
Thanking her for the evidence, Sir Brian said: “You’ve given us an account of how you were met with silence, not information,” adding that she had “insult added to injury”.
Father tells inquiry of horror of twins being infected with HIV
The father of twin boys infected with HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood has told of his horror at discovering one of his sons had his brain removed for testing after his death, without the family’s knowledge or permission.
Condemning the “shameful history of this heartbreaking nightmare”, the boys’ father gave evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry about how his twins were given the illnesses as young children, which led to the death of one.
The man, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, explained how the boys were diagnosed with a severe form of the blood condition haemophilia at just 11 months old, which required regular treatment using blood products.
In 1985, when the boys were 10, they were diagnosed with HIV, followed by hepatitis C, despite the family having not been told they were at risk or that they were being tested for the diseases.
The angry father, referred to as Mr AB, described how he felt the twins were “treated like lab rats” during their treatment, and were given different medication without explanation.
When one of the boys became severely ill, he was admitted to hospitals in Glasgow, where he eventually died in 1992.
But in the hours before the 17-year-old’s death, Mr AB revealed that two doctors had questioned him about funeral plans and possibly carrying out post-mortem tests – described to him as taking fluid from his brain and spine.
He said: “While my son was still alive in bed and unconscious through HIV and hep C, they asked me if I would give them permission to carry out a post-mortem and I said no. I said that I do not want it, he’s suffered enough.”
However, during a chance encounter with one of the doctors six months after his son died, he was told that his son had his scalp and skull opened and his brain removed to discover the cause of death.
It emerged that measles had infected the boy’s brain, and his father said he was told “if only we had known that, we could have done more” by the doctor.
Mr AB kept the news of the post-mortem to himself for 12 months, saying that the loss of his son was “utterly devastating” and he did not know what to do with the information revealed to him.
He also discovered claims that details of the post-mortem were destroyed on purpose, while the remaining medical information about his son’s treatment were “inaccurate records”.
The family also kept a record of all the treatment they gave their sons at home, but the book was taken by the hospital “to photocopy”, but was never returned.
Although he praised the “great care” from the NHS, he claimed that some of the doctors involved have been “closing ranks” over the infected blood scandal, which is believed to have claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people since the 1970s and 1980s.
The inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, was hearing evidence on the final day of its Scottish stage in Edinburgh, exactly two years after the investigation was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The hearings are scheduled to continue in Cardiff from July 23.
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