21 Oct Infected blood inquiry: Key witness disagrees with compensation ‘as it suggests liability’ | UK News
A key witness giving evidence to the infected blood inquiry was heckled with chants of “liar” and told the hearing she disagreed with compensating the victims of the scandal because it suggested “liability”.
Professor Christine Lee worked at the haemophilia centre for north London’s Royal Free Hospital during the 1980s and 1990s.
She told the public infected blood inquiry: “I truly believe that any patient who has had any treatment for which they have really severe side effects should have financial support as far as possible to make their life better.
“But what I don’t like about the idea of compensation [is] what compensation does – it suggests liability.
“I truly believe that people at that time were doing what they thought was the best and the side effects were really not at all clear and certainly HIV was a tragedy that nobody could have foreseen.”
Mark Ward is one of Professor Christine Lee’s former patients and has been campaigning for justice for victims of the scandal.
He told Sky News: “The only way to recognise the traumas we all faced following our infections is through compensation.
“Going through years of fear, stigma and discrimination cannot simply be brushed under the carpet to make those responsible for our care feel better about themselves.”
Professor Lee told the hearing that she believed, at the time, people were “doing their best”.
She was asked about a 1998 interview she gave to the journal Haemophilia with Dr Rosemary Biggs, a former director of the Oxford haemophilia centre.
In the interview, Professor Lee said: “I get very irritated with patients now who are demanding compensation, because they have got hepatitis C from concentrate, but they wouldn’t be alive to make those kinds of complaints if they hadn’t been treated.”
When questioned about that interview, Professor Lee replied: “When I read that now, I think that perhaps the word irritated is strong and I think what I was really trying to express there was frustration.”
She added: “I would take you back to the fact that in 1937, the life expectancy (for a haemophiliac patient) was 20 years. Towards the beginning of the 90s it was approaching 70. And this was at the cost of having hepatitis and sadly for many HIV. The other side of it was people lived a life.”
Earlier at the hearing, Professor Lee’s evidence was interrupted with calls of “you’re a liar,” after she told the inquiry that haemophiliac patients from the Royal Free between 1978 and 1983 were told of their “non-A, non-B-hepatitis” infections – now known as hepatitis C – at the time.
She then conceded that her comments were in fact based on an assumption as she had not joined the clinic until 1983.
Almost 3,000 people have died as a consequence of being infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.
The inquiry continues.