London (TeleSUR) – Margaret Thatcher’s ministers denied responsibility for the scandal, slashing victim compensation.
The British government of Margaret Thatcher tried to cover up a massive contaminated blood scandal that caused the deaths of 2,400 people from AIDS and Hepatitis C in the 1980s, newly released documents reveal.
The findings, uncovered by Jason Evans — whose own father died in 1993 from HIV and Hepatitis C as a result of being given the contaminated blood — were first published by Sky News.
“For 20 years people have been told that we had no case, that the government had no responsibility, and that the deaths were not the result of the failure to ensure self-sufficiency in blood products,” he told Sky News.
“But what this shows is that from the very start the government knew their argument was weak. It was ‘hard to refute’ because it was true.”
The 1987 cabinet memo, written by then Conservative Secretary of State for Social Security John Moore, reveals how ministers attempted to deflect responsibility for the scandal, as well as reduce financial aid to victims.
In the 1970s and 1980s, more than 4,000 British hemophiliacs were given blood contaminated with Hepatitis C and HIV by the National Health Service: blood labeled “Factor VIII.” Factor VIII came from the United States due to a shortage of blood in the United Kingdom at the time, and its donors included sex workers, prisoners and drug users — many of whom were paid to donate.
By 1987, it was evident that thousands had been infected and were dying as a result — something the cabinet memo acknowledged.
“About 1,200 hemophiliacs were infected before 1986 with the HIV virus by Factor VIII and about 40 have already died of AIDS. The prognosis for the remainder is bleak,” wrote Moore.
“The (Haemophilia) Society have successfully got across their view that the hemophiliac’s problems with AIDS is due to government’s failure to ensure self-sufficiency in blood products. While unfair, this is hard to refute convincingly in presentational terms,” his memo continued.
The Haemophilia Society at that time had been in financial negotiations with Moore. Its secretary preferred a one-time payment of US$13.3 million to be divided between the victims. However, Moore was concerned about legal action being taken against the government.
As such, a payment scheme was launched in the 1990s in which the government instead paid ex-gratia sums of around US$80,000 to each of those infected, on the strict condition they take no legal action. But last month, about 500 victims and their relatives finally launched a High Court action against the Department of Health.
The revelations come as campaigners continue to pressure British Prime Minister Theresa May to launch an inquiry into the case, which she promised to do three months ago.
“This is some of the clearest evidence we have ever had that points towards a cover-up,” Evans told Sky News. “Here it is in black and white that we have been told for 20 years one thing, but actually the Secretary of State in 1987 was saying quite the opposite and it has never been made public until now. If that is not a cover-up then what is?”