Police completed a five-year investigation of
a tainted blood scandal that infected thousands of Canadians
with HIV and hepatitis C by filing charges Wednesday against
four doctors, the Red Cross and a U.S. pharmaceutical company.
The charges include criminal negligence causing bodily harm,
which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, in the case
involving donated blood infected with HIV and hepatitis C
that reached medical patients.
Supt. Rod Knecht, who heads a Royal Canadian Mounted Police
task force created to investigate the case, said further charges
The case is considered one of the worst public health disasters
in Canadian history, with 1,200 people getting infected with
HIV and thousands of others contracting hepatitis C after
receiving tainted blood and blood products.
Canada's Red Cross began screening blood for HIV in 1985
and for hepatitis C in 1990.
The Red Cross was charged Wednesday with six counts of common
nuisance by endangering the public.
"The Canadian public has the right to expect the safest
blood and the safest blood products possible," said Knecht,
the task force head.
Also charged was the Armour pharmaceutical company, a subsidiary
of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc. of Collegeville, Pennsylvania,
which faces three counts of criminal negligence causing bodily
harm, one count of common nuisance and one count of failure
to notify under the Food and Drug Act.
Four doctors also face similar charges.
The task force was formed in 1997 after a judge's report
on the Canadian blood system criticized the Red Cross and
the government for problems that allowed the tainted blood
scandal to occur.
Lawsuits and compensation packages involving the Red Cross
and the federal and provincial governments include a C$1.1
billion ($711 million U.S.) government fund.