Mothers of children who died from infected blood have 'black cloud' over them, inquiry told
ITV News Central Correspondent Peter Bearne on the testimonies three mothers gave as part of an inquiry into the infection of thousands of patients in the 1970s and 80s.
Mothers of children who died during the infected blood scandal have spoken of a "black cloud" which ruined their lives, an inquiry has heard.
Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Parents of children who died after being treated by the products told the Infected Blood Inquiry in London "absolute trust" was given to doctors with "the most precious things" they had.
The UK was struggling to keep up with demand for treatments tackling the blood-clotting condition haemophilia and other bleeding disorders, and began importing infected products from overseas.
About 2,400 people died in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
On Thursday, the inquiry heard from Linda Woolliscroft, 75, from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, whose son Michael died in 1995, a week before his 26th birthday, having been diagnosed with haemophilia aged two.
Ms Woolliscroft tearfully told the inquiry: "He loved the sunshine and he hated the rain, and yet just before he passed away it was raining and he said to me ‘would you take me to see the rain?’
"This is what upsets me, because he knew he wasn’t going to see it again."
Aged 13, while a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Michael was treated with clotting agent Factor VIII, despite doctors telling them some children were having reactions to it.
Having learned about HIV during a meeting with other parents and boys treated with products at the hospital in 1984, Ms Woolliscroft took Michael to see medical professionals, but was reassured all was fine.
HIV diagnosis was 'told in a cold way', inquiry hears
Michael was told he had HIV after turning 17, despite his positive test taking place years earlier, the inquiry heard.
Ms Woolliscroft said: "It was done in a cold way, no emotion, like it was being read off a page. No feeling about it."
Speaking about the doctors, she went on: "Your life is in their hands and you believe what they say and you’ve got to trust in them. You’ve got no choice.
"Then it makes you think, after, should you trust doctors?"
Mum tells of her son's diagnosis of haemophilia at six months old
The inquiry also heard from Brenda Haddock, 73, from Birmingham, West Midlands, whose son Andrew was diagnosed with haemophilia at six months old, and who died in 1996 aged 24 after becoming infected.
From the age of about 11 Andrew was treated with Factor VIII, but Ms Haddock was told she “had nothing to worry about”.
She said: “In those days we all believed doctors, we put our faith in doctors, we had a child with an ongoing account, we followed what the doctors said, we blindly carried on giving them the treatment.”
She went on: “There’s the guilt of having some home treatment and me giving Andrew the Factor VIII at home.
“Did I administer the dose that infected him? It’s quite possible, so as well as the guilt of being the carrier that gave him haemophilia in the first place, there’s the guilt of, could I have been the one that administered the dose?”
Ms Haddock said she was advised to continue administering the treatment to her son, despite concerns about it.
She discovered that Andrew was HIV positive after seeing his medical records during a later hospital visit.
Andrew had already been told by his doctor about the diagnosis when he was 12 years old, without Ms Haddock present, she later found out.
Ms Haddock was also sent a letter saying Andrew had hepatitis C, inquiry hears
Ms Haddock told the inquiry: “I just find it unbelievable the way they sent a letter out telling someone of their hepatitis infection to a teenager, for a letter just to drop through the letterbox, with no warning whatsoever.
“I think that was pretty disgusting, to be quite honest.”
Andrew’s behaviour changed and he became “depressed”, lost interest in school and would hang around in the streets during the day.
In his teenage years he became “very withdrawn” and would not mix with people or make close friends, acting aggressively around the house.
He would also have hallucinations.
Ms Haddock said: “It does ruin your life. You never ever get over it.
“It is like a black cloud. It’s always there in your mind. Always. It never ever goes away.”
The inquiry had earlier heard from Elisabeth Buggins, whose sons Richard, Jonathan and Edward were all diagnosed with severe haemophilia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Richard died aged eight in May 1986 after being diagnosed with HIV, having been a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Ms Buggins said: “It felt like it was auto-consenting, but it was a relationship of trust, and they (doctors) had to trust us to do the right thing with the product, particularly on home treatment.
“But absolute trust was given with the most precious things we had in the world.”
Some of the human blood plasma used to make Factor VIII came from donors such as prison inmates and drug users, who sold their blood.
HIV had not been diagnosed at the time and understanding about hepatitis was still developing.
The Infected Blood Inquiry is being led by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff.