Canadian 'Bloodgate' Victims
File Suit - May Name Clinton
By Ricki Magnussen
"We are seeking justice here," says Michael McCarthy, spokesperson and lead plaintiff in a $1 billion lawsuit launched in Toronto Thursday bythe tainted-blood victims. The lawsuit names the federal Canadian Government and twocompanies, Connaught Laboratories who manufactured blood products for the Canadianhemophiliacs, and Continental Pharma Cryosan who bought contaminated plasma from an Arkansas prison and sold it to Connaught Laboratories.
The lawsuit against the Canadian parties in the blood scandal is only the beginning. In adevelopment that may portend trouble for the beleaguered President Clinton, the victims are now considering legal action in the United States.
"We are looking at our legal rights in the United States regarding protecting ourrights to launch legal actions against the parties that were responsible for what happenedto us. If the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, was involved in the collection of plasmain anyway, he needs to respond to what his involvement was. Certainly, we'll seriously belooking into naming him in a lawsuit if it is determined that he played a role in whathappened to us," McCarthy says.
Leonard Dunn, president of Health Management Associates, the firm that had a statecontract to collect blood from Arkansas prisoners, served as finance chairman of BillClinton's 1990 gubernatorial campaign.
The Washington Weekly caught Michael McCarthy for a short interview just before a Thursdaypress conference to announce the filing of the suit.
MCCARTHY: Today at 3 o'clock we will launch a lawsuit on behalf of victims of hepatitis C,like myself, who were regular blood users in the Canadian blood system. I'm a hemophiliac,and I took blood products in the years from 1980 to 1984 and was infected with Hepatitis C through those products. I exclusively took Connaught products from the ConnaughtLaboratories here in Toronto. They made hemophiliac product Factor VIII.
The story was uncovered by Justice Krever in the Krever inquiry into the tainted bloodtragedy of Canada that was started in 1994 and ended in 1997. He heard testimony on why somany Canadians were infected, through the blood system, with AIDS and hepatitis C. Throughthis investigation, documents and facts came forward that were not known before. Kreveruncovered that prisons in the U.S., in particular prisons in Arkansas and Louisiana, hadhigh risk prison plasma collection facilities. When they couldn't find buyers for thishigh risk plasma, they phoned around the world and ultimately found a broker in Montreal,Continental Pharma, who would take this high risk plasma.
You must remember that by the end of 1982, the FDA had told all the blood banks andfractionators in the U.S. that prison plasma was unsuitable to use for products in theU.S., and they complied. When this happened, there was no market for prison plasma untilthey found a broker in Montreal that would accept it. There was a loophole that allowedthem to send it up to Canada. We are talking thousands of liters of high risk prisonplasma.
We know that the FDA shut down the HMA--the private company that ran the plasma centerwithin the Arkansas prison facility--a couple of times due to flagrant violations ofplasma collection procedures. There was some label tampering and there are allegationsthat some inmates were given drugs instead of money for donating blood. Krever points outin his final report that there were two recalls from Connaught labs. A total of 4500 vialswent out to the hemophilia community in Canada and only 450 were returned. The rest wereput in our veins. This was all tainted product that was made from U.S. prison plasma.
So with that in mind, what we are doing in our lawsuit is that we are naming ContinentalPharma, the federal government, and Connaught Laboratories in a $1 billion lawsuit onbehalf of the thousand hemophiliacs who were exposed to this high risk prison plasma. Weare seeking justice here.
QUESTION: So you are only suing Canadian parties in this?
MCCARTHY: We are seriously looking at our legal rights regarding the American involvementin our tragedy. We'll be seeking legal advice to see if legal action is appropriate. Wecertainly feel that an investigation should be called upon in the U.S. to ask why, if this plasma that wasn't suitable for domestic use in the United States, the FDA allowed it tocome up to Canada to be put in innocent arms up here. There has to be some sort ofaccountability regarding the American involvement in our tragedy. And certainly we knowthat the Governor of Arkansas, at the time this happened, was the now-president of the United States. We call upon President Clinton to help us with these questions about why itwas allowed to happen. We look to him to shed some light on this terrible tragedy that hasbefallen your neighbors.
QUESTION: Yes and now evidence shows that he might have been involved in this.
MCCARTHY: From what I have seen, it certainly looks as if, when the FDA shut down thisprison plasma operation in Arkansas, the governor used his office to support HMArecovering their license. The Governor at that time was President Clinton and I think heshould explain his actions to the Canadian people, why he allowed that to happen.
QUESTION: Are you thinking of launching a lawsuit against Bill Clinton?
MCCARTHY: Well, not against Bill Clinton per se, but we are looking at our legal rights inthe United States regarding protecting our rights to launch legal actions against theparties that were responsible for what happened to us. If the governor of Arkansas was involved in the collection of plasma in any way, he needs to respond to what hisinvolvement was. Certainly, we'll seriously be looking into naming him in a lawsuit if itis determined that he played a role in what happened to us.
QUESTION: So when will you decide on that?
MCCARTHY: I think very shortly, within a month.
QUESTION: What other parties would you include?
MCCARTHY: We are seeking advice on that from some U.S. legal representatives right now andI'm not at liberty to say who these other parties may be.
No Interest in American Media
QUESTION: Now why do you think that we haven't heard anything about this in America?
MCCARTHY: Well, I can only speculate because I'm in Canada and we've been living thisterrible tragedy for years. It's been on the front pages and on all the televisionstations for many years here. It's such a grotesque story and so.... unbelievable--itwould be hard to imagine that people in the United States would be involved in the poisoning of people in Canada and around the world. Also, there's no doubt that some ofthis prison plasma was used in the U.S. Some of the plasma for sure must have ended upback domestically in the U.S.
I would imagine that there's probably a great deal of political influence to keep thiskind of story quiet, some suppression. There's a tremendous amount of legal liability ifyour country is responsible for what happened here. I'm sure that there are manyinterested parties who were involved in and responsible for making these bad decisions inthe United States. I'm also sure that these people would do everything in their effort tokeep this story quiet.
It's just that when something is true it has a way of surfacing and becoming publicreality. The public will eventually catch on to this story in the United States and webelieve that as the facts come forward, your country will have to get involved in theinvestigation.
I have lost family, I'm sick and this wasn't the life that was intended for me. Icertainly look at America differently now for what happened to me. I have a brother downin The States and always think fondly on Americans. I think that many Americans are verysympathetic to what has happened to us. I call on all Americans to ask these hard questions: Why did it happen? Why was it allowed to happen in America? Why, when thisplasma wasn't good enough for your own citizens, why were you sending it abroad for otherpeople to use and get infected with AIDS and hepatitis C? The American media have a dutyto cover the story to find out what happened.
The Ten Year Lapse in Investigation
QUESTION: Why did it take 10 years--from '83-'84 to '93 before the Krever investigationstarted?
MCCARTHY: For many years, from the beginnings of the 80s on, the hemophiliac communitycalled for an investigation but, as in the United States, we were finding bureaucracy, bigbusiness, big government and there was a great deal of inertia and resistance. The Canadian Red Cross contended that there was no problem, no contamination, nothing. Todaythe Red Cross is out of the blood business because they failed so terribly to protect the safety of Canadians.
Finally, the government was forced to call an inquiry when the extent of the infections inCanada became evident. It's unfortunate that it did take that long time, but we areextremely happy that because it put all these facts before us, we can see what happened.Now that we can see that many bad things happened, we can go about and bring the responsible parties to ustice. Hopefully we have learned from our terrible tragedy uphere. Now we have much greater safeguards in our blood system. That is one of the positivebenefits of the Krever inquiry.
It's too late for people like me and my family, but I think of the kids that needhemophiliac products. They now have safe, virus-free products. I feel, in some way, thatwe may have helped them. That's about the only thing I can do for people now. My life isruined. For me duty calls to help others and I'll do that till the end of my days.
While McCarthy could not be more specific about potential U.S. defendants at this time,Michael Galster, author of "Blood Trail [1]" and a close contact of Canadianvictim groups, offered to speculate on possible defendants: "I suppose that they'llname the Departments of Corrections from Arkansas and Louisiana, the state governments,Bill Clinton (who was then governor), the principals of HMA, along with entities such asthe Arkansas State Health Department and--quite possibly--the FDA," he told theWashington Weekly last week.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has an ongoing investigation of the tainted blood issue,launched in response to the Krever inquiry. "We have conducted up to 600 interviewsand the investigation is still continuing," an RCMP spokesperson told the WashingtonWeekly. The RCMP has already sent investigators to Arkansas and says it is "still looking for people, either in the U.S. or in Canada, or anywhere in the world, that mayhave information as pertains to the blood distribution system in Canada."
1. Author Michael Galster's fictionalized account of the Bloodgate scandal is available from Amazon:
Published in the February 1, 1999 issue of Ether Zone Online! Copyright ©1999 Ether Zone Online (<http://etherzone.com by permission. All rights reserved.
Published in the Feb 1, 1999 issue of The Washington Weekly. Copyright © 1999The Washington Weekly ( Reposting permitted with this messageintact.
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