[JURIST] Four doctors and a New Jersey pharmaceutical company were acquitted Monday of all criminal charges surrounding the dissemination of a tainted blood clotting product in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, a public health disaster that infected more than 20,000 people with hepatitis C and more than 1,000 people with HIV. Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto [OBA profile] refused to assign fault to former Canadian Red Cross [official website] national medical director Dr. Roger Perrault, former Health Canada [official website] officials Dr. John Furesz and Dr. Donald Boucher, and former Armour Pharmaceutical executive Dr. Michael Rodell, finding that their conduct failed to show wanton and reckless disregard for human life. The resultant death toll from the tainted blood has been difficult to calculate but, in 1997, the official number of fatal victims reached more than 3,000.
The defendants were charged with allowing the HIV-infected clotting product Factorate to be distributed [FDA news release] to hemophilia patients. The tainted blood scandal prompted a full-scale Canadian government inquiry [final report, PDF], a transfer of Red Cross operation of Canadian blood donation efforts to the new Canadian Blood Services [official website] organization, and finally, in May 2005, a public apology [transcript] by Canadian Red Cross leadership. Attention to the case was such that Justice Benotto banned foreign media from the courtroom [JURIST report] and ruled that reporters could not reveal the identities of victims. CBC News has more.