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Contaminated blood scandal: Highgate mother Della Hirsch damns NHS’s ‘complicity of silence’ at public inquiry

PUBLISHED: 17:38 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:38 25 September 2018

Contaminated blood demonstration at Westminster 12.04.16. Pictured Dan and Della Hirsch

Contaminated blood demonstration at Westminster 12.04.16. Pictured Dan and Della Hirsch

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Highgate mother Della Hirsch welcomed the chance to finally hold the medical community to account for the “truly horrendous wrong that has been visited upon us” during her speech on the second day of the Infected Blood Inquiry’s preliminary hearings.

Della, whose 35-year-old son Nick died of hepatitis C after being given contaminated blood products as a child, spoke at the inquiry in Westminster today.

After a fight stretching back to the 1970s, campaigners hope the independent inquiry, led by Sir Brian Langstaff, will see the actions of the NHS and Department of Health examined over the scandal, which saw at least 6,000 people contract viruses including HIV and hep C by contaminated blood products or transfusions.

In her speech, Della cited the Ham&High’s recent coverage of the scandal as she criticised “medical professionals and others including the Department of Health” for being “engaged in a complicity of silence” over dangerous blood products.

At the beginning of September we reported on the former director of the Royal Free Hospital’s haemophilia centre – Prof Christine Lee – who was discovered admitting in an interview to testing haemophiliacs for HIV and hep C without their consent, and to knowing during the early 1980s that “100 per cent of people” given the Factor 8 blood products would get the liver disease.

Della said: “One area that definitely needs a harder and stronger light shone on it is exactly why so many in the medical and allied professions not only did not share their suspicions – not even when they had real knowledge of what was happening – but also made it impossible for their clients, us, to ask questions or raise doubts.”

She added: “It is now quite clear that many doctors and others involved in the medical field did know that the treatment they were using was suspect.

“I believe by lying and keeping this truth from the community we were denied the possibility of safe treatment years earlier. Silence screwed us.”

Della, who also thanked her sister former MP Baroness Featherstone for her tireless campaigning on the issue, said she would return to this subject when she formally gives evidence to the inquiry. This is expected to be around Easter 2019.

Della’s son Nick developed haemophilia as a baby, one of the rare sufferers to do so without the condition running in their family.

She said: “There seemed to be a standard procedure of whipping some poor sod off from the waiting area at the haemophilia centres and breezily telling them they had been exposed to yet another horrifying disease and then sending them off into the night, not whistling a cheery song.”

Della also called for the inquiry to consider the Haemophilia Society’s failure to raise the issue of contaminated blood, along with the “humiliating and offensive” trusts – which were set up to provide financial support to victims of the scandal.

The inquiry continues.

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