Infected blood: another chapter in the book of Tory-Labour betrayals

As in the case of the Post Office, mistakes that could have been rectified were continued for years and then covered up.

Proletarian writers

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Tory and Labour governments alike worked for decades with medical leaders to keep the truth from horrendously mistreated patients and from the public. As in the case of the subpostmasters scandal, we see how little care the ruling class and its governments really have for their own people.

Proletarian writers

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“Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” – Karl Marx


Another scandal has rocked the halls of power in Britain, and the nature of this one is particularly egregious.

The results of the infected blood inquiry are horrifying and disturbing. However, they are reflective of the general role that the fraternal Conservative and Labour parties play in the lives of everyday British people.

Blood products that were contaminated by disease – often gathered in US prisons and impoverished neighbourhoods where addicts sold their blood for money – were given to unwitting Britons en masse, leading to over 30,000 transfusion recipients contracting Hepatitis and HIV. (Infected blood scandal: background, impacts, interim compensation and inquiry outcomes, House of Lords Library, 22 May 2024)

So far, over 3,000 people have died, and one more dies every four days as a result of this cataclysmic case of reckless neglect. For decades this continued, even after all involved had realised the risks of continuing to use these contaminated supplies.

Instead of reversing course and confessing to their mistakes, a gigantic cover-up was launched, during which medical managers and government officials collaborated to suffocate the story, engaging in regular public gaslighting of victims – all in the name of keeping the coffers of the Treasury unburdened by compensation payments. (Infected Blood, Hansard UK Parliament, 21 May 2024)

Treloars School in Holybourne is a school for children with disabilities, and historically it was an institution that served many children with haemophilia since it has onsite medical staff. The inquiry reported that haemophiliac children at Treloars were experimented on “to an extent which appears unparalleled elsewhere” using these contaminated blood products – commercial ones that were known to be riskier than safer alternatives. (Hampshire school clinic aware of infected blood risk to boys by Marcus White, BBC News, 20 May 2024)

These experiments took place because testing on animals was seen as too costly an option. Ninety out of 122 students treated in this manner have now died. Former Treloar’s pupil Ade Goodyear (1980-89) reported: “We were treated like lab rats. There was a plethora of studies that we were all enrolled on for the decade we were at the school.”

In several interviews, the experimentation on Treloars pupils stood out as the most disturbing aspect of the scandal. The BBC has reported that experiments conducted by the physician responsible, Dr Kernoff, even involved the use of a four-month-old baby. (Infected blood scandal: Children were used as ‘guinea pigs’ in clinical trials by Chloe Hayward and Hugh Pym, BBC News, 18 April 2024)

It has been speculated that suing for damages against the pharmaceutical companies will not be feasible or effective, since they have gone through so many structural changes since these events occurred that they cannot be expected to be held accountable for ‘historic events’ (some companies are refusing even to comment owing to the ‘historic nature’ of the scandal). (Infected blood scandal: call for drug firms to pay part of £10bn compensation by Jon Ungoed-Thomas, The Guardian, 26 May 2024)

What we see here is another case (spanning decades and affecting many thousands) in which British workers have been treated as worthless creatures to be experimented on and lied to by the establishment.

The people treated with these products ranged from haemophiliacs to patients needing blood transfusions following childbirth complications or accidents. It has been reported that at the time the guilty and reckless rationalised that the risk of contracting a serious virus was of less significance than the immediate condition the blood products were being used to treat (eg, it is better to have HIV than to bleed to death if you are a haemophiliac). The patients themselves were never offered this choice, however.

Moreover, many of the victims were alerted to their infected status in the most brutal way – with no regard to any humane considerations. At Treloars, children were lined up and told: “you have, you haven’t” (contracted HIV). Some victims even report being suddenly given dietary advice for dealing with HIV – having never previously been alerted to the fact that they had contracted the disease. (Britain’s contaminated blood scandal: ‘I need them to admit they killed our son’ by Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, 3 March 2018)

Patients in a state of vulnerability and need were instead of receiving decent treatment left to cope with a lifetime of serious illness. For many, the result was an early grave. Many of then were accused of being hypochondriacs and told by state actors that they had received “the best treatment available”. Many victims had to forgo having children, many more isolated themselves and suffered in silence owing to the terrible social stigma attached to an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. (At a glance: Infected blood inquiry’s key findings by Ian Casey, BBC News, 20 May 2024)

Families have buried their children; classmates have buried their friends. Untold and immeasurable suffering has taken place, while pleas to the British state to be heard and acknowledged went unheard for decades.

The risk of products made out of pooled donor blood have been known since just after the second world war. Government after government – Conservative and Labour – kicked the can of this scandal down the road. The inquiry was only launched as an act of desperation when Theresa May’s government was in a critical crisis.

The fear of being forced to pay substantial compensation led to decades of avoidance. So much so that the speculated amount of compensation has transformed from a few to hundreds of millions. Since the pharma companies involved are unlikely to pay up, this will all now be extracted from the taxpayer. It remains to be seen how much the government will be willing to pay to those affected.

The levels of failure and decay involved in this scandal are astronomical. It is a true embodiment of the rot of the present system, the vampiric nature of monopoly capital and the recklessness of the acolytes of the state.

We must not forget that this entire system is underpinned by hundreds if not thousands of similar scandals. As in the case of the Post Office subpostmasters scandal, the ruling class has just been unlucky in this case that the efforts of the people affected have finally forced the truth into the light of day.

We commend the victims and their families for their courage and perseverance in confronting the rotten behemoth of the British state and its arrogant medical leaders over many decades, even as they endured tremendous suffering and bereavement.