Chinan victims of a public health scandal say they want a UK-style judicial inquiry

Too late for sorry: a mother’s tears for son infected with tainted blood Struggle: Bertha Franklin said son Jay struggled with serious health issues from the minute he was born, but was not aware a blood transfusion at three gave him hepatitis C until a chance blood test at age 18. Picture: Joe Armao.
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Grief: Bertha Franklin and a photo of son Jay who died in October. She has joined the campaign for a judicial inquiry into ‘s tainted blood scandal after a retiring United Kingdom High Court judge was last week appointed to lead a UK inquiry into the scandal. Picture: Joe Armao.

Fighter: Charles MacKenzie has fought for years for a full inquiry into ‘s tainted blood scandal, which he calls one of this country’s most significant public health issues. He received contaminated blood during a blood transfusion when he was 16.

Campaign: Reverend Bill Crews and Charles MacKenzie in 2003 campaigning for an inquiry into the tainted blood scandal.

Victory: Reverend Bill Crews and Charles MacKenzie after a Senate inquiry into tainted blood was announced. The two men were bitterly disappointed when the inquiry failed to achieve justice for victims.

Struggle: Jay Franklin outside hospital in 2016 while fighting for voluntary euthanasia laws in Victoria after decades of struggling with a life-threatening bowel condition. He received a tainted blood transfusion that infected him with hepatitis C at the age of three.

Struggle: Jay Franklin one year before his death in October, 2017.

Legacy: Bertha Franklin wants a judicial inquiry to provide answers for ‘s remaining tainted blood victims.

TweetFacebookBlood services were extremely aware there was a virus being transmitted to people, but they chose to do nothing about it. They just destroyed people’s lives.

Tainted blood campaigner Charles MacKenzieI made a submission to the Senate inquiry years ago. They said they were going to look after people. They didn’t. They told him details about the blood donation that gave him the infection, but there’s never been a mention of sorry about this.

Bertha Franklin, whose son Jay was infected with hepatitis C

“I’ve been so angry at the Red Cross because they denied so many people compensation.My anger is really deep towards the Red Cross,” Reverend Crews said.

“I had a church full of victims 20-odd years ago. Most of them are now dead. People expected to be treated with respect and dignity by governments and the institutions that allowed this to happen, and to be compensated, but what they experienced were delays and abandonment.

“There was a Senate inquiry where the recommendations haven’t been met. Some people got compensation. Some got help. Many didn’t. What gotme was that people were allowed to die.”

Reverend Crews supported a judicial inquiry or royal commission after “running into a brick wall” trying to get justice for tainted blood victims.

“The lack of accountability on this issue is sickening. I do compareit to the way child sexual abuse victims were treated by the institutions that caused their abuse and the governments that didn’t respond,” he said.

Bertha Franklin was born and raised in Newcastle and has lived in Melbourne for 50 years. With son Jay she campaigned for voluntary euthanasia laws in Victoria. He died in hospital on October 31, 2017 after refusing further surgery, and when the pain of struggling most of his life with a devastating bowel condition became toomuch.

She remembers the pain her son experienced when people assumed he contracted hepatitis C from illegal drug use, rather than a tainted blood transfusion in a public hospital when he was still a toddler undergoing major surgery.

“It was awful for Jay when he found he had hepatitis C by mistake after a routine test. It made him frightened about having sex with people. It made him frightened about just normal everyday contact,” she said.

“I made a submission to the Senate inquiry years ago. They said they were going to look after people. They didn’t. They told him details about the blood donation that gave him the infection, but there’s never been a mention of sorry about this.”

Federal minister responsible for the National Blood Authority, Senator Bridget McKenzie,said limitations to the Lookback program were noted in the Senate inquiry, but people who had donated or received blood between 1985 and 1991 were still able to access Lookback.

The Federal Government subsidised “breakthrough new medicines” that effectively cured hepatitis C. These medicines were the highest cost to government of all subsidised medicines, with more than 100,000 scripts costing more than $1.6 billion, Senator McKenzie said.

Newcastle Herald