WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–A five-year criminal investigation into the blood distribution system of Canada that spread the HIV virus throughout Canada and the United States has resulted in charges of criminal negligence and endangerment of the public. The charges, filed Nov. 20 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Blood Task Force, targeted the Canadian Red Cross, former Canadian government health officials and one pharmaceutical company that has ties in the United States.

“The charges we have announced today reflect the fact that our investigation has met the requirements to lay these particular charges,” said Superintendent Rod Knecht, officer in charge of the task force. “It is important to note that there are specific aspects of this investigation that we continue to pursue. The possibility exists that we will be laying further charges.”

In the 1980s, numerous people were infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) through the blood supply system in Canada. Some unknowingly infected others.


Thousands more were infected with Non-A Non-B Hepatitis (now commonly known as Hepatitis C) as consumers of blood and via blood products, according to RCMP. Some were infected after receiving transfusions of blood components, usually in a hospital and often during surgery, while others became infected after using blood products to treat hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that requires regular blood-related infusions.

According to the Committee of Ten Thousand, in the U.S. nearly 10,000 people with hemophilia were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C as well. Of that number, nearly six thousand have already died from full-blown AIDS and related problems. In Canada, 1,200 persons with hemophilia were infected through the same tainted blood products.

“They allowed blood donors who were HIV infected to give (blood),” Dave Cavanaugh of the Committee of Ten Thousand told The Final Call. “Thousands of units of blood are dumped in a vat, then dispersed. When the investigation began five years ago, there were systems already in place that allowed for the detection and killing of viruses in blood,” he said, referring to a system known as heat treatment.

“But they didn’t want to spend the money to protect people,” he said.

On Oct. 4, 1993, the government authorized a Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada. After the Commission’s report in 1997, the RCMP received complaints from individuals and organizations alleging criminal wrongdoing within the blood distribution system in Canada.

The RCMP announced it would conduct a review of the findings of the Commission report and determine whether there were grounds to launch a criminal investigation. That investigation was launched officially in February 1998. The charges relate to decision-making within the structures and systems of the blood distribution system in Canada between the years 1980 and 1990. The charges were made using the laws in effect during that time period.

Charged are Doctors John Furesz, 75, and Roger Perrault, 66, both of Ottawa, Ontario; Wark Boucher, 62, of Nepean, Ontario; and Dr. Michael Rodell, 70, of Bala Cynwid, Pennsylvania. The four are charged with three counts each of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. With the exception of Dr. Perrault, each received one count of common nuisance by endangering the public. Dr. Perrault received seven counts under that charge. If convicted, each would face at minimum 10 years in prison.

Dr. Furesz is the former director of the Bureau of Biologics at the Canadian federal government’s Health Protection Branch. Dr. Boucher is the former chief of the Blood Products Division of the Bureau of Biologics at the government’s Health Protection Branch. Dr. Perrault was the former director of the Canadian Red Cross Society’s Blood Transfusion Service. Dr. Rodell is the former vice president of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Armour Pharmaceutical Company.

The Canadian Red Cross Society, through its former Blood Transfusion and Blood Donor Recruitment Services in Ottawa, Ontario, is charged with six counts of common nuisance by endangering the public.

The Armour Pharmaceutical Company, based in Bridgewater, N.J., is charged with three counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count of common nuisance by endangering the public under the Criminal Code of Canada, as well as one count of failure to notify under the Food and Drugs Act Regulations.

Though the indictment only charges Armour, the blood products in question are manufactured by four U.S.-based multi-national drug companies–Armour Pharmaceutical, the Bayer Corporation, Baxter Healthcare and Alpha Therapeutics. These companies and the Canadian Red Cross are the primary manufacturers and distributors of the blood products that transmitted the AIDS virus to thousands of persons with hemophilia worldwide, said the Committee of Ten Thousand.

Calls to the company as well as to the Canadian Red Cross by The Final Call were not returned.