Malcom Chisholm letter highlights discussions regarding evidence sent by Carol Grayson Haemophilia Action UK in 2003
(Image via BBC)
This week, a blog appeared on Factor 8 Campaign Group website showing several letters from Malcolm Chisholm MSP (Minister for Health and Community Care) related to Contaminated Blood. The group was set up by Jason Evans, son of a haemophiliac whose father died in 1993 after receiving contaminated blood as part of his NHS treatment for haemophilia. During the 1970s and 80s many haemophiliacs were infected with HIV and hepatitis C from plasma products used to treat their bleeding disorder. The letters can be viewed on the following link,
Currently, more documents are being released into the public domain due to the Infected Blood Inquiry being set up which opened in September of this year. This includes documents and evidence submitted to the earlier Penrose Inquiry, Scotland, whose report was considered a “whitewash” by many campaigners and subsequently burnt in a very public display of anger, see following article,
Penrose Inquiry: £12m contaminated blood probe branded a whitewash
As a long standing campaigner of over 30 years who lost both my husband and brother in law to the Contaminated Blood scandal, I was particularly interested in a letter of Malcom Chisholm’s dated October 2003 (referred to on Evan’s blog as document 04) to Christine Graham MSP Convenor, Health and Community Care Committee as it relates to 2 articles published in Scotland where I submitted evidence to Scottish journalists at that time and also to Malcom Chisholm and Christine Graham.
Chishom’s letter to Graham is headed, Hepatitis C issues in the 1970s and 80s and is looking at his version of the state of knowledge of hepatitis C (non-A, non-B at that time). To give a flavour I will quote the first 2 paragraphs,
“Following receipt of your letter of the 10th September, I have now seen a copy of the document cited in the recent Sunday Times and Scotland on Sunday article and referred to in your letter of the 19th September. The document in question refers to a report entitled “Haemophilia Director’s Hepatitis C Working Party Report for year 1980 -1981” which appears to have been considered at a meeting of Haemophilia Directors in September 1982.
The point at issue is whether this document reveals new information about what that government knew, and whether in particular it confirms that they were aware as early as 1974 that treatment with blood clotting factor concentrates carried a risk of infection with what we now know as hepatitis C.”)
On the 22nd October 2003, I received a response from Kirstie Campbell, Chisholm’s secretary, the first 2 paragraphs confirms my submission of evidence to him,
Dear Mrs Grayson,
Thank-you for your letter of 14th September (2003) to Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Health and Community Care, requesting a meeting with the Minister to discuss with him the paper you had submitted to the Scotland on Sunday and the Times, Scotland, in relation to the infection of haemophiliacs with Hepatitis C through treatment with blood products.
The Minister had agreed at the Health and Community Care Committee (HCCC) meeting on the 9th September to consider the paper and he is grateful to you for providing him with a copy of the document in question entitled, “Haemophilia Director’s Hepatitis C Working Party Report for year 1980 -1981”. This paper appears to be considered at a meeting of Haemophilia Directors in September 1982.
The point at issue is whether this document reveals new information about what that government knew, and whether in particular it confirms that they were aware as early as 1974 that treatment with blood clotting factor concentrates carried a risk of infection with what we now know as hepatitis C. The Minister has since responded to Christine Grahame MSP, Convenor of the HCCC along the following lines…
The letter continues to lay out what Chisholm understand to be the point at which hepatitis was understood to be dangerous to haemophiliacs and a further comment confirms receipt of other documents which I sent to Chisholm in 2003, including a letter from a much respected hepatitis expert Dr Garrot Allen with decades of research experience. Chisholm’s letter to me states,
“in the early 1970s Hepatitis C infection was widely regarded as benign, although there is no doubt there were some clinicians that dissented from that view- as demonstrated by the letter of 6th January 1975 to Dr Maycock from Dr Garrot Allen which accompanied your letter to the Minister.”
Tragically those with far less experience of hepatitis failed to respond to the warnings from a man with decades of research under his belt! To ignore Garrot Allen, a renowned hepatitis expert in 1975 was the equivilent of ignoring Nelson Mandela on apartheid and race relations!
The two articles where I contributed to sending evidence on 7th September 2003 to journalists are as follows and are in my own hardcopy archives.
Blood risk for haemophiliacs “covered up (Sunday Times, Scotland, September 7th, 2003, Hardcopy Archived)
NHS knew of lethal blood for nine years (Scotland on Sunday, September 7th 2003, Hardcopy Archived)
There is also reference to the knowledge of hepatitis C from the Lindsay Tribunal Inquiry in Eire within the letter to Chisholm. The Lindsay Tribunal did not have access to documents within the UK wide HIV litigation which held many papers on hepatis C though some may of the same documents may have been held by both. Some UK experts did give evidence to the Lindsay Tribunal but not necessarily what was being told to patients in the UK.
I do not intend to go into detail of comparisons regarding our different opinions on the state of knowledge regarding hepatitis C over several decades only to state than an analysis of my letter, Chisholm’s letter, the documents discussed and much additional evidence on hepatitis C (unlikely to have been seen by Chisholm and which I hold) is an important matter for the Infected Blood Inquiry. This will be part of my evidence to the Inquiry. Our 2 letters must be viewed side by side along with additional evidence on hepatitis C.
What is important to establish is that 2 narratives on the state of knowledge of hepatitis C ran concurrently throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. One narrative was what was published (and often downplayed) and the second was the narrative behind closed doors amongst concerned government officials, health professionals, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers that realized the dangers of hepatitis C (non-A, non-B) and the implications for haemophiliacs often withheld from patients at that time.
Some of those carrying out research published in academic journals were haematologists that treated haemophilia patients, most had invested in using imported US factor concentrates from “high-risk” and “skid-row” donors that carried a very high risk of transmitting hepatitis. This could be viewed as a “conflict of interest” which should have been declared in journals especially where they received any funding from pharmaceutical companies and their own practice regarding treatment of haemophiliacs may have come under question. Some health authorities were also named in the 1991 Haemophilia HIV litigation which later resulted in an out of court “ex-gratia” payment under Justice Ognal.
Evan’s sharing of Chisholm’s letter on his blog has brought up another important issue, the innacuracy of some media that fail to do their research and check facts thus publishing an incorrect Timeline of the state of knowledge regarding Contaminated Blood.
The Daily Mail July 3rd 2017 published an article stating,
“Newly unearthed minutes of meetings held in 1980 and 1981 show that officials consciously put patients at risk during a scandal which killed 2,000 people”
which discussed some of the findings and referred to an,
“international haematology symposium” which was held in Glasgow in September 1980.
I immediately recognized the evidence as being part of a collection I had unearthed myself some years back and wrote a complaint to the Daily Mail at the time which they failed to address.
This was the same evidence I had submitted to Chisholm and Scottish media in 2003 referred to as the “Haemophilia Director’s Hepatitis C Working Party Report for year 1980 -1981” (which included minutes) part of a collection of documents I hold presented as the international haematology (Glasgow) Symposium, 1980. So far from being new evidence in 2017, it was old evidence previously published in the media, in my published research (2006) in private letters and submitted to a Scottish minister among others. The Daily Mail also rehashed more of my earlier evidence relating to “Dr John Craske, a leading virologist” and “Diana Walford a senior official at the then Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), who later became the Government’s deputy chief medical officer” in the same article.
I had discovered many of these documents beginning in the 1990s from my late husband’s old legal files held at a Newcastle solicitor’s office whilst researching evidence for my dissertation on Contaminated Blood written in 2006 and later awarded the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Michael Young Prize in 2009.
The Inquiry must also investigate the impact of false and innacurate media reporting on Contaminated Blood on the health and wellbeing of victims. It is stressful enough to be infected or affected by this scandal without having to fight some irresponsible media who seem incapable of getting their facts rights and in failing to do so distort the Timeline of Knowledge and evidence and defame those already harmed by the state.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.