John Major’s ‘bad luck’ comment on infected blood scandal angers victims
Former prime minister tells inquiry no amount of money could compensate for what happened
Campaigners for victims of the infected blood scandal have been left “angry, annoyed and frustrated” at comments by the former prime minister Sir John Major, who said those affected had “incredibly bad luck”.
To gasps from those present at the infected blood inquiry in London, Major suggested no amount of money could have offered true compensation for what happened.
The infection of up to 30,000 people with HIV or hepatitis C from contaminated blood has been called the biggest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. Thousands died after contaminated blood products were imported from the US in the 1970s and 1980s, often from prisoners, sex workers and drug addicts who were paid to give their blood.
Major described the effects of the scandal on victims as a “horror”. He said: “There’s no amount of compensation you can give that could actually compensate for what had happened to them. What had happened to them was incredibly bad luck – awful – and it was not something that anybody was unsympathetic to.”
Victims have long believed the extent of the contamination scandal was covered up. In one example of evidence suggesting the government knew the risks, a letter to the Department of Health in 1983 from the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre in London called for US blood products to be withdrawn over links to HIV that needed examining properly.
Labour’s former health secretary Andy Burnham has described the scandal as a “criminal cover-up”.
Jason Evans, the founder of the campaign group Factor 8, which advocates on behalf of victims of the scandal and their families, said: “I don’t think John Major has been particularly forthcoming in his evidence and I suspect families will have a lot more questions.
“His comments about bad luck just fly in the face of all the evidence – expert evidence – we’ve heard. I think it just shows how uneducated he is on the matter. There are people in the room, families and victims, who are very angry, annoyed and frustrated with what was said.”
Denise Turton, whose 10-year-old son died after contracting HIV through contaminated blood products, said: “I’m just so angry. To say it’s bad luck is horrible to hear, especially after what my son went through. He lost his life, so did many others, and all he says is bad luck.
“I can’t say what I really want to say. The only thing that is bad luck is that the government didn’t listen. They were told about the products and didn’t listen – that’s bad luck, not what happened to my son and so many others.”
Clive Smith, the chair of the Haemophilia Society, said: “Sir John Major’s evidence today that the suffering and death of more than 3,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders as a result of contaminated NHS treatment is ‘bad luck’ is offensive and complacent. His evidence is a reminder that successive governments over the last 30 years have refused to accept responsibility for this treatment disaster – and the denial continues.”