"I was shocked": Contaminated blood victims were ‘unknowingly’ involved in studies, families say

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Bereaved families who lost loved ones in the contaminated blood scandal have claimed their relatives were being “used for research” after discovering historic notes in medical records.

It is claimed that some patients being treated for the blood clotting disorder haemophilia in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood plasma treatment which doctors knew might be contaminated and infect them with hepatitis. Medical professionals wanted to study the links between the haemophilia treatment Factor VIII and the risk of infection, but a number of families have claimed their loved ones were enrolled in these studies without their knowledge or consent.

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Jason Evans, director of the campaign group, found notes alluding to the research in his father’s medical records. He has since found other families who have discovered the same notes in the records of their loved ones.

“These secret experiments, conducted without consent, show individuals were treated as mere test subjects, not human beings.

“The fact that this could happen on such a scale, over such a long period of time, is almost incomprehensible.”

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According to medical regulators, seeking consent is ‘fundamental in research involving people’, but families have said that neither they nor their loved ones gave consent to take part in any such trials. A file of documents – obtained through Freedom of Information requests, medical records provided by families, peer-reviewed journal articles and documents from the public probes into the infected blood scandal – reveal a timeline of the trials, led by a senior medic who worked for the now defunct Public Health Laboratory Service.

The documents suggest that patients were monitored from afar for around a decade and hundreds of patients were involved in the trials but whether they gave their consent is unclear.

Becka Pagliaro, from Waterlooville, said she was “shocked” to find notes about the trials in her father’s patient notes. Her father Neil King was co-infected with both HIV and hepatitis C while receiving treatment for haemophilia. He died in 1996 when he was 38 years old.

Contaminated blood scandal.  (Credit: Simon Dawson/PA Wire)Contaminated blood scandal.  (Credit: Simon Dawson/PA Wire)
Contaminated blood scandal. (Credit: Simon Dawson/PA Wire) | Simon Dawson/PA Wire

She said: “When I got his medical records I saw he was part of this research which I know it was something that he would not have agreed to, so that was done covertly,” Ms Pagliaro told PA.

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“I was really shocked – I wondered first of all whether I had received someone else’s medical records because I could not believe what I was seeing.”

Numerous families have also got in touch with Factor 8 after discovering reference to the trials in medical records. It comes after it emerged that experiments were conducted on schoolboys with haemophilia without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Haemophilia is a disorder where a specific protein is missing which affects the blood’s ability to clot. Until the 1970s the treatment for haemophilia required transfusions with plasma which had to be given in hospital.

Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors, which represents 1,500 victims and their families, added: “There is now overwhelming evidence that the NHS failed patients on a number of levels in the 70s and 80s and certainly in ways we find shocking and abhorrent.

“We are looking forward to Sir Brian Langstaff’s final Inquiry report in a few weeks’ time, which will lay out the wrongs perpetrated in comprehensive fashion.

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“Not only will this reinforce the case for compensating victims and their families, but importantly will shine a light on the lessons to be learned so that mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”

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