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article imageContaminated Blood Couple Take US Suppliers To Court After 20 Years

By Michelle Duffy     Sep 3, 2007 in Health
In a fight for life and the right live, a middle aged couple from Wales are going to court after a US judge told them to take the case to the UK. The couple were infected with the HIV virus after being given contaminated blood.
Their days are numbered and with a death sentence, they are fighting for as much compensation as they are entitled to since the husband, Haydn Lewis, 50, a haemophiliac, was infected with the HIV virus and subsequently diagnosed with HIV in 1985. His wife was also infected. In a contaminated batch of blood products which were unknowingly given to around 5,000 patients. Many were then diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Out of those who were infected with HIV from the blood more than twenty years ago, over 1,700 have since died.
The discovery of the contaminated blood which was administered to thousands of patients in the seventies and eighties, has lead to the biggest enquiry in medical history. Those who are still alive after being infected with either Hep C or HIV are now terminally ill.
The US pharmaceutical companies at the heart of the case will now see themselves face the UK courts after a US judge ruled that the Lewis's should take their particular case to the UK. There are six other formal claimants involved in this case against the US companies who were supplying the NHS at the time with the blood.
Since the case for those like Mr Lewis who suffer from haemophilia and who were infected at the time of the contaminated blood exposure, was brought to a conclusion in 1991, it has been felt that for Mr Lewis and his wife, their own claim had been "under-unsettled."
The US judge involved with the case so far thought it would be more appropriate to take the case to the UK for the couple. Not only will it be on home turf, but will also force the Department of Health in the UK to become involved as a "co-defendant" as they were responsible for matching the bloody types up with the patients at the time of the contamination. Mr Lewis spoke to BBC Wales about the impending case. He said,
"It's down to the pharmaceutical companies to call them to be co-defendants. It's not for us to ask for them to be co-defendants. I would hope they would do the decent thing anyway. They've been [saying] that they were sympathetic and open and transparent, so if they've got nothing to hide, maybe they should just provide the information to the legal process and speed the whole process up, hopefully. The batches were sent to Britain but then they get disseminated through the UK, but which patient received that batch, is still undecided. Now, patient records are not as complete as one would wish so we've still got this anomaly [of] which batch infected which recipient."
However, despite the Department of Health showing great signs of sympathy for those living with a death sentence from the episode, it hardly makes up for the way that their lives have been grossly effected since. The Department naturally wants to feel involved and also get to understand how the blood came to be passed over in the first place to the NHS. Yet they will attempt to remain, blameless.
They have said,
"However, the government of the day acted in good faith, relying on the information available at the time. We have been open and transparent on this issue, ensuring that as much relevant information is in the public domain as possible, with numerous documents having been released under the Freedom of Information Act."
The order for the hearing in the UK was passed by the US judge on 23 of last month.
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