SIRC – Media Watch 17-09-99

Bad Blood

Both the FDA in America and the Blood Agency in Canada announced last month their intention to ban blood donations by any of their nationals who had spent more than six months in Britain between 1980 and 1996. Despite there being no cases of CJD reported in either country and with the FDA themselves admitting that "no evidence exists that this disease has been transmitted by blood transfusion", their policy was defended as a "precautionary measure."

Blood donations have been declining in America steadily over the past few months and the American Red Cross have suggested that this latest piece of legislation may reduce them further by up to 2%. One week later Australian officials announced that they were considering a similar course of action but recognised their adoption of such a programme would have far more serious consequences on blood supply levels. Between 1980 and 1996 twenty-nine percent of Australian residents had visited Britain, a figure that would translate into the exclusion of 5.3% of donations. The Australian Red Cross has set up an independent advisory committee to investigate the implications of such an action. Although their findings are not expected for a month, they may have a considerably more difficult task justifying this legislation under the guise of the precautionary principle. Watch this space!

On Wednesday 8 September, the family of Neil Kreibich, who died of CJD having contracted the disease after being treated with growth hormone as a youngster, accepted £1.4 million damages in the High Court. The largest award prior to this was £175,000: the inflation in this case was in part due to Mr Kreibich's career potential as an orthopaedic surgeon.