‘The government gave Dad Aids, locked him up and watched him die - but we’ve had no justice’
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
In the second part of our series on the NHS blood scandal that wrecked lives, Emma Youle meets more of the families who’ve sadly lost loved ones
A sister has spoken of the horrific health scandal that killed three of her brothers and tore her family apart – leaving her, and thousands more, fighting for justice.
Over the last three decades Angela Farrugia has watched two of her brothers die painful deaths from Aids and another from hepatitis C (hep C).
All three contracted the killer viruses from contaminated blood or blood products supplied by the NHS up until 1991.
Gas technician Barry Farrugia, of Whitebarn Lane, Dagenham, suffered a horrific death from Aids in 1986, aged just 37.
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“It just absolutely ripped our family apart,” said Angela. “I don’t think our family’s ever recovered from that.”
The brothers were three of thousands of haemophiliacs – many now dead – who contracted HIV or hep C after being treated with contaminated blood products by the NHS in the 1970s and ’80s. The products came from high-risk donors, including prisoners and drug addicts, and were given to patients around the world.
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But the British government continued to import them from America even after being warned they carried a risk of infection.
People with haemophilia, a blood clotting disorder, carried a high risk of infection as they relied on regular injections of blood products to stop bleeding.
The Farrugia family first realised the catastrophic consequences when Barry, one of six siblings, became unwell in the mid 1980s.
At first doctors said he was not infected but later came the devastating news that he had HIV, hepatitis B and hep C.
“He didn’t really stand a chance,” said Angela. “He was 37 years old, a fit young man, just reduced to a shadow of his former self.
“It was absolutely devastating for us as a family to watch this.”
Barry visited his son Tony on his 14th birthday and told him the news that he was HIV positive.
“That’s when I knew he was going to die,” said Tony. “We knew there was no treatment, we knew there was no cure.”
With his health deteriorating rapidly, Barry was sectioned under the mental health act. He died in September 1986 leaving behind five sons. Tony and one of his brothers were placed into care and Barry’s five sons were not fully reunited for another 24 years.
In the meantime the health scandal continued to wreak havoc on the family.
Two of Barry’s brothers, Victor and David, were also infected, Victor with HIV and David with hep C. Victor was 63 when he succumbed to Aids in 2002. David died aged 69 in 2012.
The scandal’s devastating effects have inspired Angela and Tony’s involvement in the growing campaign to deliver a fair settlement for victims.
Some 7,000 people were given contaminated blood products, some through routine transfusions, but only an estimated 6,000 know it and 2,000 people have died.
“They took treatment to help them and it killed them, it was as simple as that,” said Angela. “They were victims of a cover-up and I’m just trying to get some justice.”
Tony said it would “take more than words” to atone for his father’s death.
“They gave him Aids then locked him up and watched him die,” he said. “There are thousands of families in the same position. It should be dealt with, so that people can get on with their lives.”
See next week’s Barking and Dagenham Post – the government’s response