St Neots man calls for justice from contaminated blood inquiry after losing three family members

Tony's dad Barry Farrugia.

Tony's dad Barry Farrugia. - Credit: Archant

A St Neots man is campaigning for the Government to recognise and fully compensate those affected by a contaminated blood scandal which led to the deaths of three members of his family including his father.

Tony Farrugia, 43, of Howitt’s Gardens, Eynesbury, is pushing for the scope of the Penrose Inquiry – a public inquiry into HIV and Hepatitis C infections acquired from NHS treatment with blood and blood products in Scotland – to bring justice to patients and their families. He said that it would still be relevant to his cause in England, as the blood was given to patients prior to the Scottish NHS being separated from England.

Due to be published on March 25, Penrose follows The Archer Inquiry, which included a recommendation for a compensation system for victims to be set up. Completed in 2009, Mr Farrugia said that he and other campaigners have not been satisfied with the results.

He said: “We are trying to raise awareness. Even though Archer was a good inquiry we felt that the Government ignored what they wanted to and didn’t implement all of the recommendations.

“I felt they picked out the smallest group of the community that they could satisfy with the lowest payment.

“The level of support people have received is a pittance. Hopefully Penrose will help. We hope it’s not whitewashed.”

Mr Farrugia lost his father Barry and uncles Victor and David – who were all haemophiliacs – as a result of the treatment they were given with contaminated blood. The hereditary condition, which prevents blood from clotting, meant that they required the protein Factor VIII to be administered during medical treatment.

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Unbeknown to the public, the NHS had sourced paid-for blood donations which were distributed by American suppliers and taken from communities with an increased risk of having potentially deadly infections, such as prison inmates.

The Archer Inquiry concluded that suppliers continued the practice long after alarms had been sounded about the danger.

Mr Farrugia’s father Barry had mild haemophilia and had not needed a great deal of treatment. However, he was infected with Hepatitis B and C in 1977, before contracting HIV in 1980. His health seriously deteriorated, but he was not immediately told about the infections. At the time, effective drugs were not available to treat HIV and he died in 1986, at the age of 37. This led to his stepmother and youngest brother – who was born after his father was infected – having to undergo medical tests. Fortunately, they were given the all-clear.

But the tragedy did not end there. His uncle Victor was diagnosed with HIV a couple of weeks after his father died, and was later told that he had also contracted Hepatitis C. Following the development of HIV drug AZT, he survived 16 years with the disease before dying in 2002 at the age of 63.

In addition, his uncle David contracted Hepatitis C from the blood products he had been treated with. He tested negative for HIV, but was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1990. He died aged 69 in 2012 from complications due to the disease.

Mr Farrugia and his four brothers – David, 43, Vincent, 46, Andrew, 45, and Paul, 32 – do not suffer with haemophilia. It almost entirely affects men and two members of his extended family have the condition.

He has been campaigning, with the help of his former MP Alistair Burt, to bring the issue to national attention.

He said: “For 28 years we have been losing members of our family to contaminated blood.

“There was such a stigma over HIV that most people didn’t speak out. When my dad died it was a hard time and there was just no support there from the Government, no counselling, we were basically told to go away and never speak of it because of the stigma. It has been horrendous.

“My dad had the right to a life with his family and they took that away. We have been let down so many times – we really have been kicked in the teeth.

“We are waiting for Penrose and we hope that the Government will bring an end to the suffering for everybody.”

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