For haemophilia campaigners that were active on contaminated blood in the 1990s, they will not have forgotten why the word “compensation” is so important and has itself become a verbal battle ground with government.
Haemophiliacs were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses in the 1970s and 80s when unscrupulous plasma companies and governments introduced the use of pooled plasma factor concentrates KNOWN to be “high-risk” for hepatitis without first finding a way to virally inactivate… a recipe for disaster as predicted by Dr J Garrott Allen in the 1960s. There was a significant increase in hepatitis risk from paid donors in the US compared to UK volunteer donors.
At the conclusion of the 1991 HIV litigation, the government made lump sums payments to haemophiliacs with an inherited bleeding disorder and infected with HIV and named this financial support, “ex-gratia payments”. Further “ex-gratia” payments were made in 2004 through the Skipton Fund for hepatitis C infection. These payments now come under the English Infected Blood Support Scheme (EIBSS) and its equivalent in other parts of the UK.
If MPs or new campaigners ever wrote to government accidently referring to these ex -gratia payments as compensation, they would be politely reprimanded in writing that the government would never use this word as to use it would be to admit liability.
This author once received an apology from Jeremy Hunt (former Secretary of State for Health) after he used the word compensation to refer to ex-gratia payments and I asked if government was now accepting liability.
Here is the definition of the word compensation according to the Oxford Dictionary means…
“something, typically money, awarded to someone in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury” …
So it is with some satisfaction that Sir Robert Francis report recently released regarding contaminated blood victims is titled,
Compensation and redress for the victims of infected blood: recommendations for a framework
A study by Sir Robert Francis QC that looks at options for a framework for compensation for the victims of the infected blood tragedy.
As the government has been so adamant in its stance for the past 3 decades, it seems that the sudden inclusion of the word “compensation” can only be an admittance towards the state’s liability for the infection of haemophiliacs… and rightly so.
I rather suspect however that a comment made on the word compensation today by former Prime Minister, Sir John Major at the Infected Blood Inquiry suggests he seems rather less keen to use this word where haemophiliacs are concerned. Too late, John… we are not letting go of the word “compensation” this time! So thank-you to government for using the word in the recent Francis study and in so doing finally accepting liability… government can’t have it all ways!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She was 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”