French court dismisses charges in AIDS-tainted blood case

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 20 2003 11:00 PM ET

France's highest court on Wednesday threw out cases against 30 medics accused of giving patients AIDS-tainted blood in a decade-old scandal that shook the public health establishment. More than 4,000 people, mainly hemophiliacs, were infected by blood products tainted with the HIV virus. Several hundred have died. The 30 defendants had been charged with poisoning or complicity in poisoning and involuntary homicide or injury. In its ruling, the court determined that doctors who prescribed tainted blood products before 1985 could not be accused of poisoning because they did not have "knowledge of the necessarily deadly character" of the products, which came from the state-run National Center for Blood Transfusions. Victims and their families immediately protested the decision. "Cowards!" shouted the mother of Yves Bertran-Miret, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from tainted blood products. "It's shameful. French justice is rotten." In a 1999 ruling in the scandal, a special court acquitted former prime minister Laurent Fabius and social affairs minister Georgina Dufoix on charges of manslaughter. Former Health Minister Edmond Herve was convicted but never punished.