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The ironic part is that one American who Canadians, not to mention Europeans, seem to love, Bill Clinton, played a bit of a role in a scandal that ended up killing Canadian and European hemophiliacs. Now, a new movie, “Blood Trail”, will tell the story–if you’re ever able to see it.
First, a short background of how I first learned of the tainted prisoner blood problem.
From the mid 1990′s through 2000, I was doing some writing for a relatively obscure, now defunct, Canadian literary website called “The Inditer”. This is where my “The Powers That Be” column was born– breach, in a non-sterile room, and with no epidural.
The man who ran edited the website was a resident of Victorian, Canada named Bill Loeppky, and through some email correspondence with Bill, I learned that he had been infected with hepatitis-C from an infected blood transfusion. (Click here for a cached brief story about Bill where his hepatitis is mentioned)
Bill died in 2002 of complications stemming from the tainted transfusion, but not before telling me in the preceding years about how he got sick because of criminals in Arkansas (by “criminals”, Bill wasn’t referring to the inmates).
Keep in mind that, when Loeppky was telling me this, Bill Clinton was president and it was at the height of all sorts of Clinton scandals, so this was just another “theory” to throw on the pile. It ended up being much more than a theory.
As this story about “Blood Trail” points out, in the 1980′s, when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, inmates in a state prison were allowed to run their own blood program without screening for infections. What could possibly go wrong?
U.S. regulations banned the sale of blood from high-risk populations in the United States, but did not ban its export to other countries. Apparently some other countries employ the stringent screening process for blood that the New York Times uses for vetting reporters.
Importing blood and giving it to patients without testing it means that either A) many others outside the U.S. were in on the scandal, or B) dozens of people were actually dumb enough to look at the labels on the boxes and simultaneously say, “it’s okay… it’s from Arkansas”.
Other films on the issue have been released to little or no fanfare. “Factor 8” came out not long ago, and, predictably, the filmmaker received the sorts of threats that one would expect when going nosing around Arkansas looking for Clinton documents.
There have been plenty of theories over the scandal, mostly, of course, revolving around money, but to this day, nobody has been charged with a single thing despite the murder of thousands.
Elizabeth Fowler, producer of “Blood Trail”, learned a few things along the way:
She (Fowler) purchased rights to the life stories of Michael Galster, an Arkansas doctor who raised alarms about the prison blood program, and Michael McCarthy, a Canadian hemophiliac who became infected through tainted blood.
The story is marked by many strange coincidences. On the same night in May 1999, Galster’s clinic in Arkansas was firebombed and the offices of the Canadian Hemophilia Society were burgled.
An Arkansas prison warden was found murdered just as he was about to talk about the story, said Fowler.
Hmm. Crimes committed. Nobody charged. Disappearing government documents. Dead witnesses. Does this all have a familiar ring to it?
Anyway, if you want to see this film, you’ll have to order it over the ‘net or get it via some back-alley Blockbuster, because the odds of it getting mainstream media exposure while Hillary’s gearing up for a presidential run are slim and none.
Was Bill Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, aware that prisoners who were known to have AIDS, hepatitis-C, and other diseases, were being paid to donate their tainted blood, having their medical records altered to show they were healthy, and that the blood was being sold to other countries?
Strange how the self-confessed detail oriented intellectually curious policy wonk Clinton never seems to have any knowledge whatsoever of any of the incriminating details in any policies he’s wonking–just the good stuff.
How quickly a scandal can turn the micro-manager into the macro-incurious.