Infected Blood Inquiry: a lack of consent

Blood Bag Sample: Photo Source @ Creative Commons (File:Ics-codablock-blood-bag sample.jpg)

The Infected Blood Inquiry continued today.

The inquiry examines why nearly 30,000 people in the UK were given infected blood, via transfusion or treatment in the 1970s and 80s.

The inquiry opened in 2018 and is ongoing.

Today’s proceedings focused on confidentiality, communication and consent in regards to ethics and law.

The court heard from Emma Cave, a professor of health care law about a ‘conspicuous absence in law’ of any duty to disclose information to a patient, until the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018.

The law still suggests that medical professionals have a duty of care to maintain confidentiality, while ethics suggests there should be a wider reading of the situation.

Official Twitter Page of the ‘Infected Blood Inquiry
From Top Left to Bottom Right: Sir Brian Langstaff, Doctor Melinee Kazarian, Professor Emma Cave, Professor Julian Savulescu and Professor Ian Kerridge ( Professor Bobbie Farsides also joined)

All experts agreed that there’s a moral obligation that patient information must be shared; the doctor must weigh up what harm can be foreseen and avoided and this may override the patient’s choice.

Jenni Richards, Counsel to the inquiry, spoke of the retention and testing of samples and whether it is right to store and test without consent.

Medical expert Julian Savulescu, said that an ethical consent process must be ensured at the ‘outset’ of any testing process. This echoed the results of the retained organ scandal, where it was found 105,000 organs were kept at Bristol Royal Infirmary without consent.

Vitally, if the cause of infection was the treatment the patient received, there is an ethical obligation for that information to be shared with the patient.

The inquiry continues.

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