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Contaminated blood scandal victims prepare for ex-Royal Free doctors to give evidence at inquiry

PUBLISHED: 17:51 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:39 17 October 2020

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal. Pictures: Infected and affected families

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal. Pictures: Infected and affected families

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Victims of the contaminated blood scandal who were treated at the Royal Free Hospital are primed for a week of hearings which will see Professors Christine Lee and Edward Tuddenham give evidence at the ongoing public inquiry.

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal who were treated at the Royal Free Hospital are primed for a week of hearings which will see Professors Christine Lee and Edward Tuddenham give evidence at the ongoing public inquiry.

Prof Lee will be quizzed for during Tuesday and Wednesday by the counsel to the inquiry Jenni Richards QC. Prof Lee ran the Royal Free’s haemophilia centre during the 1980s, with Prof Tuddenham’s turn at the Infected Blood Inquiry (IBI) coming on Thursday.

Victims and their families were shocked and upset in 2018 when the Ham&High reported on a 2015 Royal College of Physicians recording of former centre director Prof Lee laughing during an interview where she discussed how the “few patients driving this are probably after money, actually”.

READ MORE: Contaminated blood patients slam top medic: ‘We were treated like lab rats’

TThe Factor 8 campaign group has this week drawn attention to an interview Prof Lee conducted in the journal Haemophilia with Professor Rosemary Biggs – a former director of the Oxford haemophilia centre. In the interview, conducted in 1998, Prof Lee stated: “I get very irritated with patients now who are demanding compensation, because they have got hepatitis C from concentrate because they have got hepatitis C, but they wouldn’t be alive to make those kinds of complaints if they hadn’t been treated.”

'Treated like 'lab rats''Treated like 'lab rats'" Ham&High coverage of the contaminated blood scandal in 2018.

In an earlier letter discussed by Ms Richards during an examination of the “knowledge of risk” at the IBI, in 1984 Prof Lee wrote to patients saying that the risk of contracting Aids from blood factor products was “1 in 1,000”. At least 111 haemophilia patients were infected with HIV at the Royal Free.

In the same presentation by Ms Richards, memos showing senior doctors and officials at the department of health were actively discussing the risk of Aids being transmitted to haemophiliacs in blood products were discussed.

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Ms Richards said that, based on the evidence at the time, in 1983 “the currently known number of cases may not be an accurate reflection of the true extent of risk”.

Jenni Richards QC, counsel to the Infected Blood Inquiry. Picture: Infected Blood InquiryJenni Richards QC, counsel to the Infected Blood Inquiry. Picture: Infected Blood Inquiry

The inquiry’s chair Sir Brian Langstaff added this evidence suggested that there was a conflation of the number of cases of Aids and the risk level. He said: “It [the number of cases] is what is coming out of the tap, not what is in the pipeline.

The contaminated blood scandal saw infected around 4,000 people in the UK with Hepatitis C in the 1970s/1980s, and over 1,243 of those people were also infected with HIV. At least 1,500 have since died as a result.

In 2018, Prof Lee declined to address her comments in the RCP interview. During the IBI, she has submitted a number of responses to individuals’ testimony and will be quizzed this week.

A number of Prof Lee’s former patients have told this newspaper they will be watching this week’s evidence closely.

Highgate’s Della Ryness-Hirsch, whose son Nick was a haemophiliac infected fatally with hepatitis C, said she “would be watching every minute”, while Royal Free patient Mark Stewart – who contracted hep C from infected blood products which also killed his father and brother added that he was “waiting anxiously and nervously”.

Jason Evans is the founder of the Factor 8 campaign group and a core participant in the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry. Factor 8 has compiled a number of recordings of Christine Lee here, and Jason was featured in the In Cold Blood ITV documentary, available here, earlier this autumn.

Note: A surname in this article was incorrectly transposed in an initial version of this article and has been corrected.


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