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The deadly tainted-blood scandal is more shameful than Adscam

Thursday, April 21, 2005

In the recent outpouring of pre-election hyperbole, the sponsorship scandal has been described, among other things, as the “worst scandal in Canadian history.”

Hold on a second.

The evidence at the Gomery inquiry has been damning and at times disgusting, with sordid tales of millions of dollars wasted on dubious advertising campaigns and allegations of kickbacks, bogus billings, and general sleaziness involving Liberal Party apparatchik and hangers-on.

But it’s only money, and maybe a few political careers, that have been lost.

Yesterday, a determined but largely overlooked group of activists travelled to Ottawa to remind the press gallery that there is a much bigger and more devastating scandal that is ongoing -- that of tainted blood.

The combination of bureaucratic bungling, lax regulation, short-sighted politicking and pennypinching, corporate greed and outright misrepresentation has been costly, not only in dollars but in lives.

Thousands of Canadians -- 2,000 who contracted HIV-AIDS and another 10,000 or so of those who contracted hepatitis C -- will die because they were exposed to transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products.

Many of those deaths were preventable, and would have been prevented had politicians and policy-makers shown leadership and initiative.

And every one of those lives lost should concern us far more than the comparatively trivial sums funnelled to Liberal Party coffers.

We should not, of course, downplay or forgive the wrongdoing -- criminal and otherwise -- at the heart of the sponsorship scandal. But as we witness the outrage surrounding the testimony at the Gomery inquiry, we should ask ourselves why there was not much more outrage at the revelations of the Krever inquiry.

After all, the failings were sweeping, the malfeasance widespread and the betrayal of public trust profound.

The tainted-blood scandal has long ago fallen from the headlines, so perhaps a reminder of some of the most egregious elements is in order. Consider the following:

In the two years between the time it became obvious that HIV-AIDS was blood-borne and an effective test was developed, attempts to protect the blood supply were “ineffective and half-hearted,” according to Mr. Justice Horace Krever.

The public was lied to about the real risks of infection, told the risk was “one in a million” when it was as high as one in 166 for major surgery;

Blood products that were known to be unsafe were distributed to hemophiliacs to save money; in fact, lists were drawn up of patients who should get the inferior product;

The introduction of a test to detect hepatitis C in blood was delayed for four years. As many as 10,000 people may have been infected in that period;

More than $700-million was wasted on a fractionation plant that was to manufacture blood products. The technology was never up to snuff and thousands of litres of donated blood were wasted.

To make up for the shortfall, highly contaminated blood was purchased from U.S. prisons. (The plant was owned, in part, by the Canada Development Corporation, and Paul Martin was a board member when some of those decisions were made);

The Canadian Blood Committee, a group of senior health offi cials from the federal and provincial governments, systematically blocked the introduction of safety measures.

It also authorized the destruction of all transcripts and recordings of its meetings so it could not be scrutinized;

Thirty-two criminal charges have been laid against four individuals, a pharmaceutical company and the Red Cross. The trials have yet to begin; about $1.4-billion has been spent to date compensating victims of tainted blood, but a large group of “forgotten victims” (those infected with hepatitis C prior to 1986) has still been left out.

The group of “forgotten victims” that surfaced in Ottawa won a small symbolic victory yesterday when Parliament unanimously passed a motion calling for compensation to be extended to everyone -- a mere eight years after Judge Krever recommended they do so.

It has been more than two decades since the tragic events -- principally bureaucratic and political decisions and non-decisions -- at the heart of the tainted-blood scandal began. Yet no one, apart from a few hapless minor offi cials, has yet paid the price for those misdeeds and those crimes, least of all elected offi cials.

Monique Bégin, the former federal health minister, said it best: “Justice is offended if people at the top of government in bureaucratic structures are not held responsible for their actions, but employees at less senior levels of the hierarchy are. Moreover, public ethics requires that those at the top be accountable.”

There is, in the wake of the Gomery inquiry, a perception that the public is irked and wants to “throw the bums out.”

Doing so may well be justifi ed. But bear in mind that there are politicians, public servants and contractors with blood on their hands, not just with their fi ngers in the kitty.
* © Copyright 2005 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Canada Red Cross Guilty in Blood Scandal
HAMILTON, Ontario (AP)
June 1, 2005

The Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty Monday to distributing blood tainted with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1980s, and was fi ned $4,000 in the public health disaster that infected thousands.

More than 1,000 Canadians contracted blood-borne HIV and up to 20,000 others were infected with hepatitis C after receiving the tainted blood products. About 3,000 people had died by 1997 and the death toll has grown, but recent estimates were not available.

“ (The) Canadian Red Cross Society is deeply sorry for the injury and death ... for the suffering caused to families and loved ones of those who were harmed,” said Dr. Pierre Duplessis, the secretary general of the Red Cross.

In a public apology demanded by survivors of the victims and played via videotape in the courtroom, Duplessis said the charity accepted responsibility for “having distributed harmful products for those that rely on us for their health.”

In exchange for the guilty plea and public apology, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against the charity, including criminal negligence and common nuisance.

John Plater, who contracted HIV and hemophilia from the tainted blood, said the plea offered a
measure of vindication.

“We (had) thought a terrible mistake had caused the worst public health disaster in this country’s history and what we’ve heard today is: No, in fact, people broke the law,” said Plater, who is also Ontario president of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

But it is far from ideal, said Mike McCarthy, who got hepatitis C from tainted blood.

“How could anyone be satisfi ed with what happened today? Thousands of people lost their lives, hundreds and hundreds of people are living with these fatal viruses today. There is no great outcome here for anybody that’s gone through the tainted-blood scandal,” he said.

“This was an incredible waste of health and life of Canadians across the country.”

In addition to the fi ne, the charity will set aside $1.2 million for scholarships for family members of those affected as well as a medical research project.

Federal prosecutor John Ayre said the fi ne was adequate given the Red Cross’s status as a humanitarian organization, noting it no longer engages in blood collection or distribution.

The Canadian Red Cross has already paid victims $55 million in a separate fund.

The proceedings Monday were separate from charges against Dr. Roger Perrault, former director
of blood transfusion for the Red Cross. He is charged along with three other doctors and the New
Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Co. They are accused of criminal negligence and endangering the public for allegedly allowing Armour’s blood-clotting product, infected with HIV, to be given to hemophilia patients.

Perrault’s lawyer has denied the doctor committed a crime.

New questions on tainted blood. U.S. prison supplied it despite dangers.
Film Documentary called disturbing by RCMP

OTTAWA—Canada continued to receive blood from an Arkansas prison in the 1980s long after serious safety problems at the facility had been exposed, new evidence indicates.

Material gathered by Arkansas fi lmmaker Kelly Duda shows that, after evidence of contamination emerged in 1983, the prison blood centre simply set up a new subsidiary, with a different name, and continued shipping blood to Canada.

The Canadian Hemophilia Society is asking the RCMP to consider the documentary as new evidence in the ongoing police investigation into the tainted-blood scandal. RCMP Files Criminal Charges

Bill McKay, an investigator with the RCMP blood task force, said he had viewed the documentary and found it disturbing, but declined further comment.

The lucrative blood centre at Grady, Ark., was originally run by a company called Health
Management Associates, but many operations were run by prisoners themselves, according to Duda’s 90-minute documentary. Prisoners drew blood and collected bribes from fellow inmates for the privilege of “bleeding,” according to inmates interviewed for the documentary. Prisoners were eager to donate blood because they were paid for doing so.

The documentary also says at least 38 blood donors at the facility were infected with hepatitis B, rather than four as reported by the Krever inquiry on Canada’s tainted-blood scandal. Hepatitis B was later determined to be a strong indicator of HIV infection.

“ It was far worse than anyone knew up there (in Canada), as far as the quality of the blood was
concerned,” Duda said in a phone interview.

The blood was imported by Continental Pharma of Montreal, a major blood broker, and sold to
Connaught Laboratories of Toronto, which in turn supplied blood to the Red Cross.

According to the Krever Report, Connaught and the Red Cross both claimed they did not know the blood was being supplied from a prison until a product recall in 1983.

The recall came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration learned that infected inmates had been allowed to donate. But much of the tainted blood had already been distributed in Canada.

Health Management Associates stopped shipping blood after the recall, and it has been assumed in Canada that no more prison blood was been provided after that point. But Duda said the operation simply resumed under a new name, ABC Plasma. That is confirmed by documents from the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Documents obtained by Canadian Press show that ABC Plasma was on the Health Canada list of approved suppliers in March 1984. 5


FORMER US President Bill Clinton may be forced to appear in court over a medical scandal which claimed the lives of innocent Scots.

Many haemophiliacs were infected with hepatitis C after tainted blood from American prisoners was imported into the UK. Glasgow firm Thomsons are representing the families of Scots sufferers who died after contracting the disease. They allege inmates in an Arkansas jail were paid to donate blood despite the authorities knowing they had AIDS and hepatitis.

They are threatening to call the ex-president, who was state governor at the time, to the witness stand.

The infected blood was used to make clotting agents for haemophiliacs who require regular blood transfusions Frank Maguire, of Thomsons, said "These allegations are extremely serious and I am now more sure than ever that there should be a full public inquiry into why so many Scots contracted hepatitis C from infected blood products.

"The relatives of my clients who have died want an inquiry to know how their loved ones came to be infected with such a deadly disease, to expose the full facts surrounding their death and bring to light any negligent or discreditable conduct.

"An inquiry would also help to reassure the public that this sort of thing could not happen again.

"If former President Clinton has some information about how this happened in a jail in Arkansas while he was state governor then I'd hope he'd want to give evidence to an inquiry."

The law firm has already taken court action against the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, and Health Minister Andy Kerr.

They are calling for a review of their decision not to hold a judicial inquiry into the spate of deaths.

Clinton blood scandal exposed in new film
Documentary tying Arkansas guv to spread of AIDS to screen in Hollywood next week
Posted: October 30, 2005
10:10 p.m. Eastern
By Joseph Farah
© 2005

Joseph Farah is editor and chief executive officer of
WASHINGTON – A documentary seven years in the making tying Bill Clinton to an Arkansas prison blood scandal that spread AIDS to thousands around the world is set to screen in Hollywood next week – renewing controversy about the long-forgotten story.

The film, which premieres at the prestigious American Film Institute film festival next Tuesday, reportedly uncovers fresh evidence about how thousands in Europe contracted AIDS and hepatitis through tainted blood deliberately shipped even after widespread problems were discovered in Canada where some 10,000 had already been infected.

" Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal," made by Kelly Duda, an Arkansas native, will reveal new details about how inmates at an Arkansas jail were paid to donate blood despite authorities knowing they had AIDS and hepatitis.

The documentary shows how senior figures in the state prison system altered prisoners' medical records to make it look like they were not carrying the deadly diseases.

"While making this documentary, I lost several things. I lost my president, my home state, my family, many friends, and my innocence," says Duda.

The film reveals how for more than two decades, the Arkansas prison system profited from selling blood plasma from inmates infected with viral hepatitis and AIDS. Thousands of unwitting victims who received transfusions of a product called "Factor 8" made from this blood died as a result.

Duda interviews victims in Canada who contracted the diseases, state prison officials, former employees, high-ranking Arkansas politicians, and inmate donors.

"In the early days of AIDS, we at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) were surprised that the hemophiliac community was infected so rapidly," said Dr. Donald Francis, former head of the AID Laboratory for the CDC. "This shocking documentary tells why."

Duda, who has worked with CNN, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Associated Press Television in their coverage of the blood-scandal story, says he was followed, sued, burglarized and had his tires slashed while working on the documentary. He was also part of the team for Fuji-TV that produced "The Hepatitis C Epidemic: A 15-Year Government Cover-up." The program won a George Foster Peabody Award in 2003 and was watched by more than 12 million viewers in Japan.

He also worked as a consultant in two major class-action lawsuits in Europe and Japan where plasma from Arkansas' prison system showed up. He also assisted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in its investigation of the Arkansas prison plasma sales. He has also been in talks with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI about a possible investigation in the United States.

"Kelly Duda's film screams to be known about," says William Gazecki, producer-director of "WACO: The Rules of Engagement." "The blatant abuse of power, the criminal subjugation of prison inmates, and the complete absence of government oversight and accountability make for a compelling, must-see story."

"Prior to the making of 'Factor 8,' I never considered myself an investigative journalist," says Duda. "In fact, I had never written a newspaper article before in my life. I was an aspiring filmmaker who had a story thrown into his lap. Actually, it wasn't even a story at the time but a series of events that allegedly took place in my home state in the 1980s. It was a tale I didn't want to tell, but the more I looked into it, the more I found. It didn't take long before I realized that regardless of the cost and sacrifice, the story you're about to see which is a complicated one had to be told. There where quite literally lives at stake. I felt a moral responsibility, a civic duty to do something."

Last May, the Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty to distributing blood tainted with HIV and hepatitis C in a health disaster that killed more than 3,000 people. 1999

The organization, which distributed the blood in the 1980s, paid a fine of $4,000 for causing more than 1,000 Canadians to contract blood-borne HIV and as many as 20,000 to become infected with hepatitis C.

As part of the plea deal, Canadian Red Cross Secretary General Dr. Pierre Duplessis issued a public apology via videotape that was played in the courtroom to survivors of the victims.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Bill Clinton was at the center of a scandal in Arkansas in the 1980s involving the sale of AIDS-tainted blood to Canada, which was distributed through the Red Cross.

As governor of Arkansas, Clinton awarded a contract to Health Management Associates to provide medical care to the state's prisoners. The president of the company was a long-time friend and political ally of Clinton and later was appointed by him to the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. Later, he was among the senior members of Clinton's 1990 gubernatorial re-election team.

The death toll from the tainted blood has grown since the figure of 3,000 was calculated in 1997, but recent estimates are not available, the Associated Press reported.

Duplessis said the organization accepted responsibility for "having distributed harmful products for those that rely on us for their health."

Prosecutors dropped criminal charges, including criminal negligence and common nuisance.

The Canadian Red Cross already has paid victims $55 million in a separate fund. Along with the fine, the charity will set aside $1.2 million for scholarships for family members of victims.

The Arkansas connection to Canada's blood scandal began with a deal Health Management Associates struck with the state allowing collection and sale of prisoners' blood in addition to treatment.

Because of the exploding AIDS crisis, U.S. regulations did not permit the sale of prisoners' blood within the country.

But HMA found a willing buyer in Montreal, which brokered a deal with Connaught, a Toronto blood-fractionator, which didn't know the source of the supplies.

Sales continued until 1983, when HMA revealed that some of the plasma might be contaminated with the AIDS virus and hepatitis. The blood was also marketed overseas.

Michael Galster, who conducted orthopedic clinics in the Arkansas prison system during the period the blood was collected, charged HMA officials knew the blood was tainted as they sold it to Canada and a half-dozen other foreign countries. He also alleged Clinton knew of the scheme and likely benefited from it financially.

"It may sound sensational, but I assure you it's true. In the process of making 'Factor 8,' I received strange phone calls, I was followed, my house was broken into, my tires slashed, and sensitive information – including my personal notes – mysteriously appeared on the Internet," recounts Duda. "I also had a gun pointed at the back of my head, there was a murder, and a key inmate informant was whisked out of state and put into isolation."

He says when he went looking for Clinton's governor's papers to find state documents relevant to his investigation, he was told that 4,000 boxes had been hidden away in private storage and could not be found.

"When I went to the Arkansas State Health Department to request records regarding disease rates at the prison and anything about the plasma program, I was stonewalled," he said. "I actually had to sue the state agency just to get access to its files that by law are supposed to be a matter of public record. When I went to the Arkansas State Police Headquarters key documents had disappeared. When complete strangers showed up out of the blue asking me what I was doing and with whom did I work for, I had to ask myself, 'What's going on here?

One thing is for certain, if I had a dollar for every time someone (in the past seven years I've been investigating this story) told me to "be careful!" I could have paid my rent several times over."

Duda says in 2004 he was sued shortly before "FACTOR 8" was to screen in Park City, Utah. A federal judge blocked the premiere. The case eventually was settled out of court but set his project back nearly two years.

Suzi Parker, writing in, described how the scandal unfolded: "At the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas penal system during the 1980s, while President Clinton was still governor, inmates would regularly cross the prison hospital's threshold to give blood, lured by the prospect of receiving $7 a pint. The ritual was creepy to behold: Platoons of prisoners lying supine on rows of cots, waiting for the needle-wielding prisoner orderly to puncture a vein and watch the clear bags fill with blood. Administrators than sold the blood to brokers, who in turned shipped it to other sates and to Japan, Italy, Spain and Canada. Despite repeated warnings from the Food and Drug Administration, Arkansas kept its prison plasma program running until 1994 when it became the very last state to cease selling its prisoners' plasma."

While working at the White House, Linda Tripp – the former assistant to both Vincent Foster and Bernard Nussbaum – said received a phone call from someone who mentioned the "tainted blood issue." The phone call came just after Foster's mysterious death. The phrase meant nothing to Tripp and when she tried to find out more from a White House computer, the database denied her access. Testifying in a Judicial Watch deposition, Tripp said, "It had been alarming to me that when I tried to enter data from a caller that I was working with on a tainted blood issue, that every time I entered a word that had to do with this particular issue, it would flash up either the word 'encrypted' or 'password required' or something to indicate the file was locked."

The Ottawa Citizen reported attorney Foster had defended a lawsuit against HMA, the Arkansas firm shipping tainted blood from prison inmates.

Scandal of infected US blood revealed in film exposé
By Liam McDougall, Home Affairs Editor
October 30, 2005

A MAJOR new documentary that uncovers fresh evidence about how thousands of Scots contracted Aids and hepatitis through infected blood is to be given its world premiere at a prestigious US film festival.

The film, Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal, made by the US film-maker Kelly Duda, will reveal new details about how inmates at a US jail were paid to donate blood despite the authorities knowing they had Aids and hepatitis.

It shows how the US state of Arkansas, under former president and then-governor Bill Clinton, allowed contaminated blood from Aids and hepatitis-infected prisoners to be exported around the world during the 1980s and 1990s to be used in the manufacture of clotting agents for haemophiliacs.

The documentary also reveals for the first time how senior figures in the prison system doctored prisoners’ medical records to make it look like they were not carrying the deadly diseases. Even after it was known there was a problem, the film reveals, blood products were allowed to be supplied to Europe, including to the UK, where thousands of patients were infected with HIV and the potentially fatal liver virus, hepatitis.

Last night, the revelations caused outrage among haemophiliacs who contracted Aids and other diseases through the blood products. They branded the findings "unbelievable" and "shocking", and demanded that the government launch a judicial inquiry into the so-called "tainted blood scandal".

Many haemophiliacs believe that the UK government colluded with US authorities and giant pharma ceutical companies in the medical disaster. Investigations by the Sunday Herald have already revealed that the UK’s Department of Health knew in 1981 that haemophiliacs were at risk of hepatitis infection from imported blood products, but continued to use them.

Andy Gunn, a Scottish haemophiliac who contracted Aids and hepatitis after being given the clotting agent Factor 8 from a US source in the 1980s, said: "This film shows again that we need a full inquiry into why this was allowed to happen."

Gunn, 30, who is involved in an international legal case against the US pharmaceutical firms, said he was most at risk of contracting the diseases because he had to use clotting agent more often since he has severe haemophilia.

Duda’s film, which is to be shown at the American Film Institute Festival in Los Angeles on November 8, is the result of almost a decade of research into prison blood policy.

In the film, Bill Douglas, a former prisoner and hepatitis sufferer, described the regime in Cummins Penitentiary in Arkansas, where he regularly donated plasma.

He said: "They didn’t care if you had to crawl to get there so long as you were able to give blood. You were never checked. It was like a cattle chute. That’s the way it was done."

Dr Edwin Barron, a medical administrator at the facility, who was so disgusted at the facilities that he resigned after around a year, said: "They did little or no screening of anybody. It was obvious to me ... that this was a time bomb that had been planted here."

He said that despite raising concerns he witnessed needles being shared by the prisoners. In 1983, around the time that haemophiliacs were becoming infected with HIV in the UK, the prison refused to recall the products it had exported that were found to be suspect.

There are also allegations that Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, may have been aware of the concerns about the blood products. Randal Morgan, who was deputy director of the department of corrections from 1981 to 1996, said: " It would be ludicrous that Bill Clinton did not know that the plasma programme was experiencing problems."

The risk of infection was magnified because the US used pooled blood, meaning that the blood of groups of people were used to manu facture single Factor 8 products. One contaminated unit of blood would have been enough to infect thousands of patients.

In the UK, around 5000 Britons contracted hepatitis A, B, C and G in the 1980s and 1990s. Thousands more contracted HIV, many of whom are now dead.

The fresh revelations come as thousands of haemophiliacs worldwide are launching a class action in the US against five drug companies, Alpha Thera peutic, Armour, Aventis, Baxter and Bayer.

They add weight to calls for an inquiry into the scandal, so far refused by the UK government.

Gunn added: "It’s a murderous cover-up. They have effectively murdered thousands of haemophiliacs and got away with it.

"What’s a few thousand haemophiliacs? That’s their view."

Duda said: "I’ve seen documents that officials in the UK were aware of the dangers. I think it’s unconscionable for there not to be a full public and criminal investigation into this.

The Department of Health has denied that there is need for an inquiry because it does not accept that "wrongful practices" were used.

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