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Infected blood wiped out my family. Nothing less than criminal charges will do.

My father was given a transfusion infected with HIV—and within five years he, my mother and my baby sister were dead. Those responsible and those complicit must all be held accountable.

May 20 2024, 08.10am

My name is Sam Rushby and  I would like to share my experience of the worst disaster in NHS history. 

In the 1980s my father, a haemophiliac, was given a blood product called Factor 8. Little did he know this treatment that was supposed to make him better was about to turn his whole world upside down. It ultimately ended with his death - but not before he would have to watch his daughter and wife die in front of him first. 

This was because the Factor 8 product he was given was infected with HIV. My father unknowingly went on to infect my mother - who was pregnant with my sister. My sister died at just four months old, four days before Christmas. Four years later, my mother died. One year after that my father died. All three died of AIDS. 

I was just a three year old, a little boy, left orphaned by something that should never have been allowed to happen. The government was repeatedly warned of the risks of using Factor 8 products, but ignored these warnings. They are complicit in infecting thousands of people - three of which were my family members. 

Life is indescribably difficult when you lose your parents at such a young age. It has impacted every part of me. I longed to have a cuddle with my mummy and daddy, and to be able to tell them about my day at school. I developed serious trust and separation anxiety. As a child, I struggled to leave my grandparent’s side, fearing that when I returned to the room they would be gone and I would be all alone. 

"Those involved must be held accountable, though I have no faith in the government to do this"

Because of the stigma around HIV, I was told to tell the other children at primary school that my mum had died of cancer and my dad had died of a stroke. It was only later years - when I was about thirteen years old - I learned that I would have been bullied if I had told the truth, and there would have been implications for the rest of my family. 

My nan once told me that when my dad was dying the house was graffitied and the top of this car was slashed. Even as a teenager I never told anyone the truth. As I got older I was horrified to learn that something as bad as this scandal could happen in the UK.

Once the infected blood inquiry began I got in touch with other people impacted by the scandal. One of those was Jason Evans - the Director & Founder of the Factor 8 campaign group - who has been integral in the campaign for justice as well as extremely personally supportive.

It was only really when I started to get involved with watching the inquiry and speaking to campaigners that I learned how difficult it was to get people in power to actually listen to you and do the right thing.

Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson brought forward a vote in parliament to force the government into setting up a compensation body for victims.

But instead of all MPs doing the right thing, there was a division. Shouts of “No!” were called as MPs objected to our fight for justice. The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, imposed a three-line whip on his MPs to vote it down. Thankfully the amendment passed, with 246 MPs voting for justice, while 242 voted against it.

"Even now, one infected person is dying every three and a half days"

It has been a long battle for many. I only found out the truth at thirteen and only really learned things when the inquiry started. For some people this has been going on for more than six decades ,brushed off and covered up for so long by so many governments.

I can’t think of many countries and many governments that could allow this to go on without a resolution. Even now, one infected person is dying every three and a half days. People sit and say “what are the government waiting for?”. Well, it is the opinion of many that they have hoped that those affected would simply die off and that their families would just go away. Unfortunately, the government has shown nothing that would make me disagree with that opinion. 

I am extremely nervous about the final report today. But I’m also very relieved that the truth will finally be revealed. I pray that those responsible and those that covered it up will be held accountable in the same way that me or you would be if it was us who had committed a crime. 

From my experience, those in high positions of power seem to be exempt from the law. But in this case, nothing less than criminal charges will do.

Thousands of people have lost their lives due to negligence of the health service and government. It has then been covered up for many years, but it’s now time for the truth. It’s now time for them to stand up and say “we are sorry”. It’s time for them to try to right the wrongs done over many years and to implement the inquiry’s recommendations in full. 

Those involved must be held accountable, though I have no faith in the government to do this. They have put more money and time into saving themselves and their careers than into saving the many lives that have been lost and destroyed.

I will never get to spend a birthday or Christmas with my mum, dad or sister. My two children will never have their nan or grandad or auntie. This is the reality - not just for me -  but for many families who have lost loved ones and who are still battling illness. This pain will never go away, but the government dragging this out any longer certainly is the wrong thing to do. Finally, after six decades I plead: do the right thing. 


Sam Rushby has campaigned for justice following the deaths of his father, mother and sister during the contaminated blood scandal. He is happily married and lives with his wife and two children.