Health Inquiry: How Did 2,400 Britons Die From Contaminated Blood?

Thousands of patients died in Britain after being given contaminated blood. Public Domain

It is one of Britain’s most devastating postwar disasters. Yet it happened silently, in homes and hospital beds, without explosions or crashes or weaponry. In the 1970s and 1980s, at least 2,400 people died after they were given blood products from abroad that were infected with hepatitis C and HIV.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced an inquiry into the incident, following a campaign backed by senior politicians including Manchester Mayor Andy Burham. As it unfolds, it will trace the anatomy of a mysterious tragedy that stretched beyond the borders of Britain—including to the United States.

The scandal centers on a new treatment given to hemophiliacs—people whose blood does not clot properly—known as factor VIII. The clotting agent helps treat the condition. But when British patients were given imported supplies, including those sourced from U.S. prisoners who had sold their blood, some turned out to be contaminated.

Thousands of patients ended up infected with hepatitis C and HIV. Now a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May has said the new inquiry will establish the causes of the “appalling injustice,” the BBC reported.

Andy Evans, chairman of the campaign group Tainted Blood, told the BBC he hoped the inquiry would expose any wrongdoing by the powerful. “We have evidence that warnings were ignored and that these products continued to be used despite the warnings and that following the infections…[there was] a cover-up,” Evans said.