At the recent House of Commons debate, some MP’s made powerful statements. Below is an extract from a Scottish MP, Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP), with some poignant reminders to policy and decision-makers of all colours.
“Let us recall that this scandal has been going on for over 40 years.
People have been dying without being recognised and without being looked after for all that time.
It really is a disgrace.
We talk about not accepting liability.
I have a letter here. According to a leading doctor in the Food and Drug Administration in America, in May 1985, heat treatment of blood products had been available for some time, but non-heat-treated blood could continue to be produced with the current licences because the FDA was not going to do anything about it. It could have regulated the practice out, but it wanted things to be tidied up quietly.
The doctor explained that although the FDA could revoke the licences through regulatory process, it did not want any attention to be paid to the fact that the practice had been
“allowed to continue for so long”
It wanted the issue to be
“quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public.”
I have a copy of a letter from John Major, the former Prime Minister, who was at the time Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In 1997, he wrote to Tony Newton, then a Health Minister, raising the possible consequences of a sympathetic response to the Haemophilia Society:
“It could lead to an open-ended commitment of huge dimensions
“give rise to court action against the Government because of the implication of negligence”.
He asked Tony Newton to “consider the points” made by the society, but
“with no implication that the Government will take action.”
Here we are, nearly 30 years on, in almost exactly the same situation.”
When you read the quotes she highlights, some might say ‘they have been found out’, others that this is ‘just normal politics, damage management’. Pity that damage management couldn’t have been as fastidious from the 1970’s to stop this disaster happening and to the extent that it has in the first place.
Politicians’ motivations seem to derive not from the noble theme of ‘justice’ but from the ignoble themes of self-protection and the avoidance of negiligence and precedant setting.
One wonders how decision-makers would feel if the disaster had touched them personally. One wonders how things could have turned out differently in the past if decision makers, MP’s and financial interests acted the way they proclaim they act, with honesty and integrity.