Wednesday, April 10

Infected blood scandal: Former students and relatives sue Hampshire school | contaminated blood scandal


A group of survivors and relatives of people who died in the infected blood scandal are suing a school where they contracted hepatitis and HIV after receiving experimental treatment without informed consent.

A proposed class action brought by the Collins Solicitors in high court on Friday alleges that Treloar College, a boarding school in Hampshire that specializes in teaching haemophiliacs, failed in its duty of care to these pupils in the 1970s and 1980s.

The claim could result in a payment of millions of pounds and is based on new testimony given by former school staff members about the ongoing investigation into infected blood.

Gary Webster, 56, a former student who became infected with hepatitis C and HIV after being treated for contaminated blood at school in the early 1980s and testified in the inquest last year, is the lead plaintiff for the 22 group survivors.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “We were lab rats or guinea pigs. We always thought that we might have been experimented on for research purposes, but we had no proof until the evidence provided in the investigation.”

last year in testimonial of the investigation, former Treloars director Alec Macpherson confirmed that doctors at the school were “experimenting with the use of factor VIII”, an imported plasma that was later found to be contaminated with HIV and hepatitis.

He said he and other faculty members did not ask the doctors about the trials. He told the investigation: “We had no authority or reason to interfere. You can’t, doctors are gods, right?

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Macpherson said she agreed to the treatment because she trusted the doctors and couldn’t remember if she informed and consulted her parents.

Webster said: “None of our parents were informed. I’m pretty sure my mom and dad would have asked why I was changing my treatment, and in 1983 they would have known there were problems with imported factor VIII.”

He added: “I am really angry, especially after hearing the evidence from the school. It should never have happened. The staff had a duty of care and I think they were negligent.”

Webster was 18 years old in 1983 when doctors at the school told him he was infected with HIV and gave him two years to live. He said: “I was with my best friend, Stephen, who died of AIDS in 1990, and the doctors at school told us we were infected and would probably be dead in two years.”

Two years later, Webster was told he also had hepatitis C as a result of infected blood given to him at school.

He said: “I had full-blown AIDS in my late 20s and early 30s. It was only because of the treatment that came out that I managed to pull through. Many others did not.”

public consultation I heard last year that of 89 children with hemophilia who attended Treloar in the 1970s and 1980s, less than a quarter were still alive.

Webster said the survivors were psychologically scarred and did not receive counseling at the time. “We are all damaged both mentally and physically. I got derailed and started drinking a lot. I once went through a wall with a car trying to kill myself. Many of us had suicidal thoughts with the stigma of AIDS and the news that you weren’t going to live long anyway, and relationships were a nightmare.”

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Despite his problems, Webster said he had been one of the lucky ones, because he survived and managed to work, first as a tailor and then as a manager for the Red Cross before being forced to retire for health reasons at the age of 46.

“It’s hepatitis C that has really hurt me, my liver is completely damaged and physically I can’t work anymore,” he said.

Desmond Collins, Senior Partner at Collins Solicitors, said: “This is a direct breach of duty case. The school was acting in loco parentis, but failed in its basic duty to care for these already vulnerable children. We are determined that they receive due recognition and reward for the trauma they and their families have endured for decades.”

He added: “There was a fatal lack of curiosity on the part of the school about what was going on. The children were treated as a data set with which the doctors decided to experiment. The parents were entitled to an explanation of what was happening. The school didn’t tell them anything because they didn’t know anything, they just handed it over to the doctors.”

In a statement, the university, which has since changed its name to Treloar, said: “We are very saddened that around 100 of our alumni are among the 4,500 men, women and children across the UK who have been infected. with hepatitis and/or HIV from infected blood products supplied within the NHS treatment programme.

“We are unable to comment on the legal actions taken against Treloar at this time, but we will continue to cooperate with the public investigation into these matters and await its outcome.”

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www.theguardian.com

1 Comment

  • GARRY GALE

    He was too focused on having affairs with the parent’s of his pupils…including Sandra Le Marche.. mother of Stefan, who died in the 70’s from M.D. He was famous for playing the bagpipes when they sailed into foreign ports.

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