Man jailed in Aids case still receives NHS pay: Convicted blood transfusion director getting pounds 50,000 salary while French authorities consider appeal. Steve Connor reports
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 26 July 1993
Jean-Pierre Allain was suspended on full pay from his job as director of the East Anglian Regional Blood Transfusion Service last October, when he was convicted in France of knowingly distributing Aids-contaminated blood.
Earlier this month his appeal against the conviction failed and he was jailed for two years, with another two years suspended. The East Anglian Regional Health Authority yesterday confirmed that he was still being paid. Alasdair Liddell, general manager of the regional health authority, said that Allain was waiting to hear whether he would be given leave to appeal for a second time and that it was inappropriate to stop his salary while that process continued.
He denied that Allain was being treated any differently from other more junior employees who were convicted of criminal offences. 'I think the same would apply. You can't just dump people. You do have to look at each case on its merit.'
Although Allain's job is funded by the NHS, his salary is paid through the University of Cambridge, where he is Professor of Transfusion Medicine. One Cambridge academic said his conviction was deeply embarrassing to the university. The regional health authority attempted to limit the damage of his conviction by setting up an 'independent inquiry' led by Baroness Warnock, mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, who has made a study of medical ethics.
The inquiry team of five health professionals did not consider the legalities of the French court case, only whether Allain was fit to continue in his post. It interviewed only two people: Allain and 'one other French witness'.
In June, the health authority published the inquiry's findings, which ran to just seven paragraphs, and concluded that Allain should keep his job. 'His actions were consistent with medical professional ethics,' the inquiry panel said.
Earlier this month, however, a French appeal court decided to uphold Allain's conviction for knowingly distributing Aids-contaminated blood products to haemophiliacs between March and October 1985, when he was head of research and development at the French national blood transfusion service. Of about 1,200 French haemophiliacs who received blood products in 1985, nearly 300 have since died of Aids and many more are infected with HIV.
Allain argued that in January of 1985 he wrote to his boss, Michel Garretta, the director of the transfusion service, urging him to introduce safer, heat-treated blood products. He said he repeated the warnings verbally and in writing.
Last year, after his conviction was announced, Allain said: 'I consider that I have been selected as a scapegoat and that nothing like a fair trial has taken place.'
Mr Liddell said the regional health authority would meet this week and was expected to discuss Allain's position.
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