The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, ordered a public investigation on Tuesday into the contaminated blood scandal that happened in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Thousands of British public health patients were treated using blood infected with the HIV virus or hepatitis C, resulting in the deaths of 2,400 people, The Washington Post reports. Authorities had probed into the matter then, but lawmakers argue that they did not dig deep enough to find out what happened.
May said that this new inquiry aims to “establish the cause of this appalling injustice.” May said,
The victims and their families who have suffered so much pain and hardship deserve answers as to how this could possibly have happened.
The statement was released after six political party leaders signed a letter urging the government to re-open the case, to clear allegations of a cover-up.
Diana Johnson of the Labour party called the crisis “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the National Health Service” and added that officials had not considered the possibility of criminal activity.
Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Health, said this new investigation would be able to bring criminal charges, should they be determined.
The tainted blood was linked to supplies of a clotting agent called Factor VIII, which was imported from the USA. Some of the products were infected, and some of the plasma was traced to high-risk donors, such as American prison inmates who were paid to give blood.
Most of the victims were hemophiliacs, and majority were infected with hepatitis C. There were 1,200 infected with the HIV virus, and fewer than 250 remain alive today, the Hemophilia Society said.
Andy Burnham, former health secretary, said that the matter “amounts to a criminal cover-up on an industrial scale.” He said medical records were altered that tests were conducted on patients without their consent or knowledge. Those test results were not released for decades, he added.