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__Kratos__

Expert rocks Canada's tainted-blood case

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__Kratos__

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- The case against four physicians and a pharmaceutical company accused of failing to properly screen blood that infected thousands of Canadians with HIV and hepatitis was in jeopardy Monday after a key witness cast doubt on some evidence.

After years of investigation and delay, opening arguments were set to begin in the criminal trial of New Jersey-based Armour Pharmaceutical Co.; the former medical director of the Canadian Red Cross, Dr. Roger Perrault; two other Canadian physicians and one from the United States.

But Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto was told that a key medical witness recruited by the prosecution has questioned some evidence against Perrault and the two other Canadian physicians and believes the three may not be criminally negligent.

More than 1,000 Canadians became infected with HIV and up to 20,000 others contracted hepatitis C after receiving blood transfusions and tainted products from Armour in the 1980s and early 1990s. At least 3,000 people have died and others remain terminally ill.

Benotto agreed to adjourn the trial until February 21 while both sides interview Dr. Graham Dukes, an English regulatory expert who arrived in Toronto during the weekend.

Dukes, a lawyer, medical doctor and professor of pharmaceutical policy at the University of Oslo in Norway, said in a preliminary review of the case that the charges against the accused appeared to be well-founded.

But in his final draft report of last week, Dukes said: "I do not believe that there is, in the documentary evidence available to me, a sufficient basis for the criminal charges against the blood transfusion service and its directors."

Perrault, 68, and the others are accused of allowing an HIV-infected, blood-clotting product to be given to hemophilia patients. He faces four counts of criminal negligence and one count of endangering the public for his alleged role in the scandal.

Also facing similar charges are Dr. Michael Rodell, an American and former vice president at the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Armour, and Canadian physicians Donald Wark Boucher and John Furesz, former Canadian federal health officials.

Neither Rodell nor his company, Armour, were mentioned in court Monday. Their defense lawyer said the charges against them did not appear to be in question by Dukes.

James Kreppner, a hemophiliac who received the tainted blood in the 1980s and is now gravely ill with the HIV and hepatitis C viruses, was distraught at the turn of events.

A lawyer by training, though too ill to practice, he has been monitoring the case for other victims. Kreppner said he hoped the judge would consider all the evidence, especially from the 40-plus victims or family members who are prepared to testify.

"The documentary evidence is just one part of the entire case," he said, adding he would be "extremely angry" if prosecutors withdrew the charges against the Canadians.

"That would shake my confidence in the judicial system," he said.

Perrault's lawyer, Ed Greenspan, said federal prosecutors may not have a choice.

"It cries out, in this report, that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction," he said. "

Federal prosecutor Michael Bernstein, however, told the judge there were other parts of Dukes' report that indicated some charges might be valid and chastised the defense attorneys for "cherry-picking" one aspect of the review to impress the courtroom.

Source

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Wow. :no:

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