'The family imploded': Son of haemophiliac tells Andrew Marr how infected blood scandal tore his family apart

4 December 2023, 19:33 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 09:31

Victim of 'infected blood' scandal speaks to Andrew Marr

Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

The son of a man infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV told Andrew Marr how the scandal tore his family apart and urged the government to vote for an amendment to support those given infected blood.

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Tony Farrugia explained to Andrew Marr that his father was a mild haemophiliac who had lived a normal life before he died from contaminated blood.

Many of the family also had haemophilia, who "rarely needed treatment" and "lived normal lives".

Before falling victim to the infected blood scandal, Tony's father, who was a gas technician, was given the one donor treatment of cryoprecipitate.

He was then switched to the American Factor VIII treatment; and from his first infusion, he contracted hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

He then later contracted HIV through the Factor VIII treatment.

Mr Farrugia's father became very ill before the "family kind of imploded", as Tony was removed from the family home and placed into care.

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His father was then sectioned under the Mental Health Act in April 1986; he did not return home and died in hospital around seven months later.

Upon their father's death, Tony's twin brother was also placed into care but were separated: "We weren't put together, we were separated over 100 miles apart."

The brothers did not see eachother until they were 18-years-old.

Tony did not see his other three brothers until 2010.

The family then found out Tony's uncle was infected with HIV a few weeks after his father died, and then was diagnosed with hepatitis C.

An inquiry then found another one of the family members was infected with hepatitis C.

His cousin was also diagnosed and is the only one still alive.

Around 1,250 people with haemophilia tested positive for HIV at hospitals across the UK.

Tony told Andrew that the scandal has been affecting the family "for the best part of 37 years.

"He should have never been given this product [infected plasma].

"He did have a level of clotting on his own and on bed rest and pain relief, the bleeding would have stopped.

"What he was administered the treatment for, were not life-threatening bleeds, they were either work or play injuries... yet he was administered this deadly treatment."

In a message to the MPs voting tonight on an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which would establish a body for a full compensation scheme for those infected with contaminated blood, Tony said: "To any MP, although we know we have full support from Labour... they should vote for this amendment.

"We've seen enough ministers and MPs over the last four decades deny us justice and I think tonight would be time for them to put that record straight, put it right, and for this amendment to pass through", Tony concluded.

Whilst Labour fully support the amendment, the government faces a rebellion by Tory MPs over calls for a new body to help infected blood victims.

Andrew Marr breaks down the 'blood scandal'

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves confirmed Labour will support an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would establish a body for a full compensation scheme for thousands of patients infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

In a letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt informing him of Labour's support for the amendment, Ms Reeves described the infected blood scandal as "one of the most appalling tragedies in our country's recent history".

She wrote: "This week we have the opportunity to work together to begin to bring justice for the victims.

"Blood infected with hepatitis C and HIV has stolen life, denied opportunities and harmed livelihoods."

Thirty Tory MPs have also signed the amendment, which will be debated in the Commons on Monday and would require the body, which is expected to be chaired by a High Court judge, to be created within three months of the legislation becoming law.

The creation of a compensation body by the end of this year had been recommended by the chairman of the contaminated blood inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, a former High Court judge.

Labour's shadow minister for victims and sentencing Kevin Brennan has also tabled an amendment which would require the Government to respond to the final report of the independent Infected Blood Inquiry within 25 days.

"This is not a party political issue," Ms Reeves said. "All of us have a responsibility to act now to address this historic wrong.

However, the government faces a rebellion by Tory MPs but backbenchers are set to join forces with Labour on payouts over the scandal.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer indicated on Monday that ministers are unlikely to shift positions, insisting that it was "appropriate" to wait until the ongoing inquiry has concluded.

"We have made interim compensation awards, there is an inquiry ongoing. That will report next year and that is why we think it is appropriate to wait for the inquiry," Ms Frazer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I can totally understand and this is an absolutely dreadful situation, that is why government has already identified compensation on an interim basis and that is why we have got an inquiry"

"I think it is always appropriate when you put in place mechanisms for review that you await the outcome of those reviews before you make any final decisions," she said.

Nevertheless, Senior Conservatives Sir Robert Buckland and David Davis are among those backing the amendment tabled by Dame Diana Johnson, who has campaigned on behalf of victims.

An independent inquiry into the scandal was due to publish its final report this autumn but the document will now be published in March 2024 due to the "sheer volume and scale of the material".

Under an initial scheme, only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment of around £100,000.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will decide which amendments MPs will vote on later.

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