When scientists are made to lie

The admission by the British Prime Minister, Mr Rishi Sunak, that over the past FIFTY years, the British National Health Service and the British Government had cov­ered up the truth relating to the importation and use on British patients of contaminated blood from the United States is one of the most horrifying instances of Government machinery con­sciously committing a heinous crime against the populace served by that Government.

Although Mr Sunka’s admission and apology were full enough, it was the First Minister of Scot­land, Mr John Swinney, whose rendition of the historical facts relating to the crime, was most candid and hence was more warmly welcomed by the victims and their families.

Mr Swinney’s statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, said: “I am confi­dent that I speak for every Mem­ber in this Parliament (when) when I welcome the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report.

“I offer my sincerest thanks to the Inquiry Chair, Sir Brian Lang­staff, and all of the Inquiry team, for their diligence, and their pur­suit of truth, in producing such a comprehensive final document.

“Our focus should now be firmly on all those who have been infected; their families, and the organisations that support them; and I want to pay tribute to all of them. Those infected and impact­ed by this tragedy have worked tirelessly to ensure that its effect, and their suffering, is not ignored.

“It is a disgrace that those who have been affected have had to work so hard to secure the outcome that (has been) achieved. The fact that they had to work so hard and for so long is an utter condemnation of those who have put obstacles in the way of the truth being revealed.

“The report’s headline find­ings make damning reading for governments, the NHS, and others responsible for patient safety across the United Kingdom during this scandal.

As Sir Brian makes clear in the report, the situation that unfolded across the United Kingdom came about due to ‘systemic, collec­tive, and individual failures’, and exposed patients to ‘unacceptable risks’. The failure of authorities to ‘deal ethically, appropriately, and quickly with the infections when the risk materialised, and with the consequences for thou­sands of families’ is an accusation which should cause both shame and reflection.

“The allegations of ‘decep­tion’ and of ‘hiding the truth’ are deeply alarming, as are those that describe patients as being ‘kept in the dark’ about their own health.

“And the numbers of people impacted by these failures are truly harrowing.

“More than 30,000 people across the United Kingdom were infected by contaminated blood products and transfusions between 1970 and 1991 – with around 3,000 of [them] in Scot­land.

These are not just numbers on a page. That is 3,000 families in Scotland who have faced decades of unnecessary heartbreak and pain.

Three thousand families who have had their “lives, dreams, friendships, families and financ­es” destroyed; (as the report makes clear.)

“The report states that gov­ernments and the health service failed both those with bleeding disorders, and those who were transfused.

The tragic results of these failures were deaths, illness and unimaginable suffering.

And the harms done to those infected and affected were com­pounded by REPEATED FAIL­URES to acknowledge that they should not have been infected, and repeated failures to offer any meaningful apology and redress.

“Indeed, the fact that it has taken four to five decades to get to this point, is a failure that the Prime Minister, Mr Sunak, described as a point of ‘national shame.’

“I acknowledge, and welcome, the apology issued by the Prime Minister (Mr Sunak), on behalf of the United Kingdom Govern­ment. This was, rightly, a fulsome apology. But not only that, the Prime Minister’s statement also contained two solemn promises. First, that comprehensive com­pensation would be paid to both the infected and affected.

And second, that a fundamen­tal rebalancing of the system will be required in any consideration of the report’s recommenda­tions.”

“On the first point, the Scottish Government will work collab­oratively with the United King­dom Government to put that into effect. On the second, the Scottish Government will take the necessary steps within our own responsibilities to make that happen.

Presiding Officer, when I was elected as the Member of Parlia­ment for North Tayside in 1997, one of the first constituents who came to see me was Bill Wright.

Bill contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products. He has faced – and continues to face – acute health challenges as a result of this treat­ment. It has had an overwhelming effect on his life and the family who love him.

But despite this intense level of suffering, Bill – with enormous dignity – has campaigned tirelessly for justice on behalf of Haemo­philia Scotland to secure justice for those who have been affected.

On top of his campaigning, Bill has also been a valued member of the Scottish Infected Blood Sup­port Scheme Advisory Board, and has also contributed his expertise and wisdom in a number of other areas to help advocate for better care for haemophilia and other bleeding disorder patients across Scotland.

Without the leadership and unrelenting work from individuals like Bill, this report would not have happened. This truth would not have been exposed. This justice would never have been secured.

Having walked on this jour­ney with my constituent Bill Wright for these last 27 years, I am humbled that he is now able to hear, directly from his local Member of Parliament, now this country’s First Minister, the direct and unreserved apology from the Government for the suffering that he has endured.

There are countless others who deserve recognition for their cam­paigning and work on this issue – including the Scottish Infected Blood Forum and many individu­al campaigners.

So to all of those who have worked so hard to make this report happen, and to seek justice for those impacted by this tragedy, I express my heartfelt thanks, my admiration, and my appreciation for the tenacity they have demonstrated in getting to this point.

People who were infected with HIV or hepatitis as a result of NHS treatment have endured un­imaginable suffering. I know that this report will not change what has happened nor will it bring back those loved ones who have been lost nor will it repair the lost moments of life that could have been.

I do hope, however, that it is a step forward in the journey towards a semblance of justice and offers a sense of peace in their lives.

The Scottish Government will carefully consider the Inquiry’s report in full, and all of the rec­ommendations for Scotland. In doing so, we will be able to build on the work already done with victims since the earlier Scottish Penrose Inquiry into infected blood. We will do so as quickly as we can because the infected and affected communities have already waited far too long to see action.

I would urge the UK Govern­ment to implement the Victim and Prisoners Bill as quickly as possible, because I know how im­portant it is that all those affected are able to access compensation as soon as possible.”

The reason why the call for candour in such situations has been generally welcomed is that when scientists speak, it is almost always assumed that what they say is based on knowledge acquired by them through research and ex­perimentation over many years. To find, in the blood contamina­tion case, that they lied to please Government officials and their employers and thereby caused the death and infection of thousands of people who had absolute faith in the “scientific knowledge” they thought was being utilised to treat their Diseases (including HIV and haemophilia) or infecting them with Hepatitis C, has had a devas­tating effect on the British public.

Could it have happened in Ghana? I think so, because we model many of our institutions on those in the UK and other “advanced” societies.

To say nothing of our doctors and other scientists being trained by counterparts in the “ad­vanced” societies.

It is altogether, a most fright­ening situation, especially as the deception went on for a good fifty years, despite whistle-blower attempts to expose it!

The UK Government owes it as a duty to humanity to prose­cute and punish those who did so much to undermine doctor-pa­tient relationships not only in the UK, but the whole wide world. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw how global medical matters had become. Our Gov­ernments must put their weight behind every effort to ensure that nothing like the blood contami­nation scandal ever occurs again anywhere.

By Cameron Duodu

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