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Government announces tainted blood inquiry

The Story


Marlene and Jerald Freise have been seeking answers for two years -- ever since they found out Marlene was infected with the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion in 1982. Now it looks as if they might find out how, and why, deadly tainted blood got into a system that was supposed to save lives. As the CBC reports, the federal government has announced a full-scale, $2.5-million inquiry into Canada's blood system. At the center of the blood system is the Canadian Red Cross. They say they, too, want an inquiry -- but they emphasize that they want the events of the mid-1980s to be judged in the context of the information available at the time.

Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 16, 1993
Guest(s): Mary Collins, Lindee David, Jerald Freise, Marlene Freise, Doug Lindores
Host: Peter Mansbridge, Pamela Wallin
Reporter: Brenda Craig
Duration: 2:19

Did You know?


• In November 1992, a parliamentary committee called the Commons Sub-Committee on Health Issues began to examine the tainted blood scandal. The committee heard from over 30 witnesses, including the Freises, but was left with more questions than answers. In May 1993, the committee recommended a full-scale inquiry.

• About three weeks after the inquiry was announced, Justice Horace Krever was chosen as commissioner. Krever, a judge with the Ontario Court of Appeal, had experience with AIDS issues and was a lecturer in both legal and medical faculties. In the 1970s, he chaired a committee on the Human Tissue Gift Act, which regulates organ donation, and sat on a royal commission on the confidentiality of health records.

• The goal of the inquiry was "to review and report on the mandate, organization, management, operations, financing and regulation of all activities of the blood system in Canada, including the events surrounding the contamination of the blood system in Canada in the early 1980s." This was to be achieved by examining "the organization and effectiveness of past and current systems" and the "roles, views and ideas of relevant interest groups." The experiences of other countries were also to be considered.

• Marlene Freise learned she had HIV when she and her husband applied for life insurance in 1991. They formed the HIV-T Group (Blood Transfused), a support network for people who contracted HIV through blood transfusions. Marlene had never been notified by the Red Cross or the hospital that she was at risk of infection. This was a common experience, due in part to the painstaking efforts required to track recipients -- and donors -- of tainted blood.

• When a patient was diagnosed with HIV and doctors determined transmission was by a blood transfusion, two types of searches could be done:
- In a "traceback," records were searched to find the donor whose infected blood the patient had received.
- In a "lookback," all the blood components from an infected donor were tracked to find the people who had received them.

• Hospitals and the Red Cross each said the other was responsible for notifying people they may have contracted HIV. Poor record-keeping and insufficient funds for lookbacks added to the problem.

• A national survey in November 1992 of people who got HIV through the blood system found that of 103 respondents, only 26 had learned of their HIV infection by notification.

• For many who got HIV from a blood transfusion, the lack of notification meant a delay in treatment and, worse, the possibility they had unwittingly infected a loved one.


More

The Krever Report: Canada's Tainted Blood Disaster more