Haemophiliac tells infected blood inquiry that doctors hid his HIV from him for 30 YEARS before medic casually blurted out: ‘You’ve got two years to live’
- Martin Beard, 50, from Burton-on-Trent, said it showed ‘blatant disregard’
- He discovered hospitals conspired to keep his condition from him since 1985
- He was forced out of his job once his condition became widely known
- Today he told the inquiry MPs should be held accountable for the scandal
A haemophiliac who contracted HIV when he was a teenager said he was ‘absolutely stunned’ when he found out doctors had kept his infection a secret when he was young.
Martin Beard, 50, told the Infected Blood Inquiry how it was not until 2006 that he first saw a 1985 letter between hospitals which said: ‘We note that he is HTLV 3 antibody positive (HIV), but is not aware of this and that you do not wish this to be divulged to him. We shall make every effort to comply with your wishes.’
Asked how he felt when he first saw this letter more than 20 years later, he told the inquiry: ‘Stunned, absolutely stunned.
‘Total, blatant disregard for me.’
Mr Beard, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, said it appeared that he had been tested for HIV without his knowledge in 1983, when he was 14. Hospitals kept it from him for 30 years
Mr Beard, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, said it appeared that he had been tested for HIV without his knowledge in 1983, when he was 14.
He said he had been treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for years ‘but they never had the decency to tell me about this’.
Mr Beard told the hearing, which is currently sitting in Leeds, he was working as a sheet metal worker when he left school in his mid-teens.
He said: ‘What absolutely staggered me was the fact that they were prepared to put other people at risk – the people I was working with.’
Mr Beard described the blunt manner in which he did find out about his HIV infection in 1986, after his care had been transferred to north Staffordshire.
A timeline of the contaminated blood scandal which began in the early-1970s
1972: NHS starts importing large batches of Factor VIII products from United States to help clot blood of haemophiliacs.
1974: Some researchers warn that Factor VIII could be contaminated and spreading hepatitis.
Late-1970s: Patients continue to be given Factor VIII, with much of the plasma used to make the product coming from donors such as prison inmates, drug addicts and prostitutes.
1983: Governments in both the UK and the United States are told that Aids has been spread through blood products.
Mid-1980s: By now the blood products such as Factor VIII, were being heat-treated to kill viruses, but thousands of patients had already been infected.
1991: Blood products imported from US are withdrawn from use. The government awards ex-gratia payments to haemophiliac victims threatening to sue.
2007: Privately-funded inquiry into scandal set up by Lord Archer of Sandwell but it does not get offical status and relies on donations.
2008: Penrose Inquiry launched, but victims claim the seven-year investigation was a ‘whitewash’.
2017: Independent inquiry into contaminated blood scandal announced by Prime Minister Theresa May.
April, 2019: Infected Blood Inquiry starts hearing evidence.
He recalled how he was walking into a doctor’s room from a waiting area and was given the news without any introduction or welcome.
Mr Beard told the inquiry: ‘He doesn’t say anything. All he says is, ‘Hello, I see you’re HIV positive’.’
He said: ‘I just batted it away and said, ‘Oh well, that’s life’ because I didn’t really understand the full implications of it.
‘And he looks at me and says, ‘Well, that’s your life for the next two years’.
‘I said, ‘What do you mean by that’ and he says, ‘You’ve got about two years to live’.’
Mr Beard said: ‘That’s when it hit me and I can’t really remember the rest of the conversation I had with that man that day.’
He said: ‘He didn’t whisper it. He said it in a normal voice. The door was open. The normal public were sat in the waiting room.’
Mr Beard explained some of the prejudice he faced over the years, including an incident in a Derbyshire pub when he was told ‘you get out’ and was left to feel ‘numb, empty, worthless’.
He also recalled how he lost a job after a manager told him: ‘The workforce is not happy. Either you go or they go. And I was forced out.’
Concluding his evidence, Mr Beard told the inquiry: ‘People are accountable.
‘I am not going to sit here and bash doctors, because I don’t believe that all doctors go into the profession to hurt people.
‘They make mistakes along the way.
‘They are human beings.
‘They lose track sometimes of what they’re there for. But this goes higher up than that.
‘There are MPs that are accountable and they should be made to answer and I believe now is the time for justice.’
Infected father fears cuddling his own children
A father who believes he contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion when he was five years old has said he still worries about cuddling his own children.
Darren Rawson, 36, from Hull, told the Infected Blood Inquiry his biggest fear is passing on the infection, even though treatments have cleared him of the virus.
Mr Rawson told the inquiry in Leeds: ‘If I get a bleed or anything, I still think I’ve got it, to be honest. I don’t like to be too close, near them when things like that happen.
‘That’s my biggest fear, you know.’
Junior counsel to the inquiry Sarah Fraser Butlin asked Mr Rawson: ‘Because you’re worried that, although it’s cleared, it hasn’t gone away?’
He replied: ‘Yes.’
Ms Fraser Butlin said: ‘I think you said earlier … that you were scared of even kissing and cuddling your children.’
Mr Rawson said: ‘Yes, that’s right.’
He told the inquiry how he was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2004 after getting severe nose bleeds.
But he said it was only years later that he realised he was probably infected when he had a blood transfusion at Hull Royal Infirmary in 1988 after complications following a tonsillectomy.
Mr Rawson recalled how he was angry when he was first diagnosed as doctors asked him about whether he took drugs and about his sexual partners.
He said the diagnosis had a severe effect on his mental health and, at one point, he tried to take his own life. Mr Rawson said he did not know at that time how he got infected.
‘My head was just blue. I felt dirty,’ he said.
‘I was getting in the bath every hour or so and I felt disgusted in myself.’
He told the inquiry how it was not until 2009 or 2010 that he realised what had happened, after his mother read about the issue in a local paper.
‘We sat down and had a chat and started looking into it a little bit more and that’s obviously how it has all come about, that it was from the blood transfusion,’ Mr Rawson said.
Asked how this made him feel, he said: ‘I was angry. I was really angry about it because, obviously, what they had put into me.’
Ms Fraser Butlin read Mr Rawson’s witness statement to him, which said: ‘I have trusted the system, including the medical professionals, would take care of me. My mum did too.
‘That trust has gone and I have been left feeling totally vulnerable as a person and completely let down.
‘I feel particularly vulnerable because I now have to seek help from the system that has hurt me so badly. I simply can’t trust it now.’
Mr Rawson said he was a Butlin’s Red Coat for six months – before he was diagnosed – but had to quit because he was tired all the time and ‘just couldn’t cope’.
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