Canadian court acquits in AIDS scandal
Should Jail be the punishment for this outrage?
A judge acquitted three doctors, a New Jersey company and a former Red Cross official of criminal charges Monday in a tainted-blood scandal that infected thousands of Canadians with HIV or hepatitis and resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto ruled that the defendants did not show conduct displaying wanton and reckless disregard in the use of the blood and that there was no marked departure from the standards of a reasonable person.
“The conduct examined in detail over one and a half years confirms reasonable and responsible and professional actions and responses during this difficult time,” she said. “The allegations of criminal conduct on the part of these men and this corporation were not only unsupported by the evidence, they were disproved.
“The events here were tragic,” the judge said. “However, to assign blame where none exists is to compound the tragedy.”
James Kreppner, a Toronto lawyer who contracted HIV and hepatitis C from the tainted blood, said he was astounded.
“It was clearly negligent behavior and a company violated its statutory duty and to call that professional conduct, you just can’t justify that,” he said.
John Plater of the Canadian Hemophilia Society expressed bewilderment at the verdict. “If you, on the one hand, have a study that says there’s a problem, and on the other hand have a study that says maybe there isn’t a problem, any reasonable person takes the product off the market. They didn’t. People were infected, and people died,” Plater said. “How that could be considered reasonable behavior is beyond us.”
The case involved blood products produced by New Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Co. in the 1980s and early 1990s that turned out to be infected. Also charged were Dr. Roger Perrault of the Red Cross; Dr. John Furesz and Dr. Donald Wark Boucher, formerly of Canada’s Health Protection Branch, and Dr. Michael Rodell, a former vice president of Armour.