Police in Toronto filed 32 charges Wednesday against four doctors, the Red Cross, and a U.S. pharmaceutical company as the result of a five-year investigation of a scandal involving tainted blood that caused thousands of Canadians to become infected with HIV and hepatitis C. The charges include criminal negligence causing bodily harm, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Rod Knecht, who heads a Royal Canadian Mounted Police task force created to investigate the case, said further charges were possible.
The tainted-blood scandal is considered one of the worst public health disasters in Canadian history, with 1,200 people getting infected with HIV and nearly 20,000 others contracting hepatitis C after receiving tainted blood and blood products in the 1980s. The charges stem from information showing that the agencies and individuals in question knew that blood and blood-clotting products being distributed were possibly contaminated and that blood products were not screened for pathogens even though screening technologies existed at the time. 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.
Also charged was the Armour pharmaceutical company, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, 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. Criminal negligence and common nuisance charges were also filed against four doctors--Michael Rodell, former Armour vice president; Roger Perrault, former director of the blood transfusion service of the Canadian Red Cross; John Furesz, former director of the Bureau of Biologics at Health Canada; and Wark Boucher, former chief of the blood products division of the Bureau of Biologics.