‘I overcame my fear in my dad’s name’ says ‘contaminated blood’ campaigner Kerry Blake Oliver
- Credit: Archant
Kerry Blake Oliver suffers from the debilitating condition agoraphobia, triggered by her father’s horrific death, and has been unable to travel more than five miles from her house for many years.
Yet she fought the condition to travel 90 miles and be on the picket line in Westminster last week in the name of her late father, Wisbech businessman Stuart Carl Oliver.
The 47-year-old died in 2005 only two months after discovering he had contracted the virus hepatitis C from a contaminated blood transfusion in 1987. Unknown to him it had laid waste to his liver for two decades.
“I watched my father die. I held his hand as he took his last breath,” said Kerry, defiantly waving a placard on the picket line.
“I’ve come here today and will go into the House of Commons to see what the MPs have got to say. I will fight, I will not stop. I want justice for my dad.”
The contaminated blood scandal saw more than 6,000 people infected by inferior blood products used by the NHS up until 1991 that were riddled with the viruses HIV and hepatitis C.
Some 2,000 people have already lost their lives, yet victims and their families have never received proper compensation and many have been left in financial ruin.
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“We lost absolutely everything, our house was repossessed, we were made homeless and the struggle still continues because there’s no closure,” said Kerry, of Peterborough.
“There’s been no compensation whatsoever and if my mother wants any assistance she has to go begging and that’s why I’m here.”
A government consultation on reforming systems of support for victims was launched in January but has been widely panned as it will leave most financially worse-off.
Widows of the dead will face a complex six-category system of payments and children of the dead have been ignored completely.
Kerry demanded closure and called on the government to finally act to offer victims a fair and dignified settlement.
“I want justice for my dad and the thousands of other people that are infected and living with these viruses, and the thousands that have died and left their spouses behind, like my mother, in dire financial situations,” she said.
Before his untimely death her father had been an established roofing contractor. He built the roofs of famous buildings such as Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, the Eden Project visitor centre in Cornwall, and Lord Norman Foster’s Albion Riverside development in London.
PANEL: MPs back killer blood victims fight for a fair deal
MPs have backed the fight for proper compensation and support for victims of the contaminated blood scandal.
During a backbench debate on April 12, MPs from all political parties called on the government to take seriously the concerns of those who were infected with HIV and hepatitis C by the NHS.
A government consultation is currently underway looking at how “unfit for purpose” systems of support for victims can be reformed.
But it has been widely criticised amid claims that most will be left financially worse-off and hundreds protested outside Parliament before the debate in a visible display of opposition.
Diana Johnson MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia & Contaminated Blood, said: “We know that these people were damaged and harmed by the treatment they received from the NHS - by the state.
“What we need to do now is put together a proper support package to ensure that those affected and their families are at the heart of what we do and whatever scheme is proposed.”
Health minister Jane Ellison said she was unable to comment on the consultation before it closed on Friday, April 15.
But she assured MPs that every single one of the 1,200 responses would be individually read and considered.
“The consultation will be genuinely open and I urge everyone with an interest to respond. I hope to take matters forward in a constructive and open way,” she said.
PANEL: How did the blood scandal happen?
During the 1970s and ‘80s advances in medical technology increased the need for blood donations and companies in the United States in particular quickly found a way to make money from the shortage.
But there was no regulation in place to monitor safe ways to extract blood. Clinics were set up across the US and people were paid to donate.
One Canadian company took blood from Russian corpses, while inmates at prisons were even paid to donate once or twice a week, again with no checks on whether they were carrying a disease.
The NHS, struggling to cope with demand, continued to buy the products into the ‘80s and up to 1991, despite the fact evidence suggests they were aware of the dangers some 15 years earlier.
The blood products were used on NHS patients in this country with devastating consequences.
Some 6,000 people were infected with the viruses HIV or hepatitis C, or both. Some 2,000 people have since died.