British Contaminated Blood Scandal: What Happened in Other Countries?

On Monday, infected blood victims in Britain finally felt they had received some measure of justice and closure, almost fifty years after the scandal began. Still, questions remain about the compensation scheme and whether criminal charges will be brought. This is what happened in some other countries.


Infected blood is considered a little-recognized scandal in Australia. The government estimates the number of victims at 8,000, while advocacy groups estimate the number closer to 20,000.

In the early 1990s, a trust was established to provide financial assistance to people with medically acquired HIV infection and AIDS, which is not considered compensation. The trust was dissolved in 2001, when 423 people had received payments worth a total of $20.16 million (£11.6 million). People infected with hepatitis C were not eligible for the payments, although some have reached settlements with the Australian Red Cross.

A Senate inquiry was held in 2004, but the government never implemented its recommendation to cover victims’ medical costs.


In the early 1980s, approximately 2,000 Canadians became infected with HIV from contaminated blood products and approximately 30,000 were infected with hepatitis C.

The Krever study was launched in 1993. A landmark report was published in 1997, blaming the country’s lack of a national blood policy for a series of disastrous decisions.

A criminal investigation was launched in 1997 and police laid 32 criminal charges against senior scientists from Health Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the US-based Armor Pharmaceutical Company. However, they were acquitted in 2007.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian Red Cross had been negligent. In 2005, the organization pleaded guilty to distributing blood contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C and was fined $5,000 (£2,885).

The government offered compensation to Canadians infected with HIV beginning in 1989, but it took years and several legal battles before those infected with hepatitis C received compensation, totaling billions of dollars.


Unique to China were the illegal blood centers that collected blood from impoverished farmers in Henan and Anhui provinces in the mid-1990s, many of whom contracted AIDS from unsanitary practices. Contaminated blood is also believed to have found its way into mainland hospitals, infecting hundreds of patients in the late 1990s.

The central government has tightened blood supply safeguards by abolishing for-profit blood donation programs. However, as late as 2004, authorities were still trying to classify HIV infections in official documents as resulting from drug use or prostitution.


In France in 1985, an estimated 4,000 people, many of whom were hemophiliacs, received blood contaminated with HIV.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and two of his ministers were charged with manslaughter. In 1999, Fabius and one minister were acquitted; the other minister was found guilty but released. All three politicians are said to have delayed the introduction of a US blood test in France until a rival French product was ready to hit the market.

The director of the National Blood Center was sentenced to four years in prison.


The Lindsay Tribunal was established in Ireland in 1999 to investigate the infection of hemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitis C by contaminated blood products, some of which came from local donors and high-risk American prisoners.

The tribunal recommended a full care and compensation package for the almost 2,000 people involved and found that the National Haemophilia Center had been slow to respond to the risk of infection.

In 2007, it was reported that the state bill for compensation for people infected with contaminated blood products exceeded €1 billion (£853 million).


A court in Rome ordered the Ministry of Health in June 2001 to pay compensation to 351 people who contracted the HIV virus and hepatitis through blood transfusions, and their families.

The court said the ministry was too slow to introduce measures to prevent the spread of the virus through donated blood and had not put in place proper controls on plasma.


In the 1980s, between 1,000 and 2,000 hemophiliacs in Japan contracted HIV from contaminated blood products that had not been heat treated, even though the technology was available.

In November 1995, a case was settled with damages of $420,000 for each victim, of which $235,000 came from the companies involved and the remainder from the Japanese government.

Three former pharmaceutical company executives were sentenced to prison in February 2000.

Renzō Matsushita, former head of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s pharmaceutical office, and two of his colleagues were found guilty of professional negligence resulting in death. In 2000, Matsushita was sentenced to two years in prison.

In 2001, a Tokyo court acquitted the former top AIDS expert of professional negligence over the scandal.


More than 100 Portuguese hemophiliacs became infected with HIV after receiving transfusions of contaminated plasma from public health services.

In 1995, Leonor Beleza, a former health minister, was indicted for her role in the scandal during her time in office in the 1980s. She avoided a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired.


In the US, hemophiliacs sought compensation through lawsuits against blood product companies.

After years of legal wrangling, Bayer and the other three makers agreed in 1997 to pay $660 million to settle cases on behalf of more than 6,000 hemophiliacs infected in the early 1980s, paying an estimated $100,000 to each infected hemophiliac. Subsequently, a bill was signed giving an additional two years to file product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers, allowing 75 people to file lawsuits.