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Vial 023: a father’s pursuit of justice

“Sobering course in judicial matters”

‘Vial 023: a father’s pursuit of justice’, by Gary William Cross. Pp 151. Price $12.99. Kudu Publishing 2012. ISBN 978 1 938624 13 1

This book is a shocking story of two parts. The first part describes how the author’s son, Darren Bradley “Brad” Cross, became one of the estimated 10,000 haemophiliacs in the US who died after contracting HIV/AIDS through contaminated blood coagulation factors in the 1980s. That statistic is underlined with a photograph of 45 haemophiliac boys aged between six and 18 years of age taken at a summer camp in 1982. All but one of them are now dead, including Brad, who died in 1993, shortly before his 18th birthday.

Brad was diagnosed as haemophiliac at birth and his parents were able to manage his condition satisfactorily. Then, in the mid-1980s, rumours of AIDS being spread by blood transfusions began to circulate. At the time haemophiliacs were told “not to worry” but, working with lawyers and other haemophiliac families, the author helped to reveal the awful truth.

The second half of the story describes the key role that the author played in uncovering how four pharmaceutical companies boosted their profits by using blood from high-risk donors to make coagulation factors, how regulators failed to stop them and how those companies hid behind their legal teams while claiming: “It just happened. No one is to blame.” Vial 023 refers to a vial of Brad’s blood used as evidence in part of the protracted legal proceedings that followed. These events happened several years ago but this book is worth reading because the author has had time to reflect on his son’s short life and his own actions. Gary Cross gives a loving, sometimes humorous, passionate but remarkably composed account of what happened to his family and what he calls his “sobering course in judicial matters”. The way that Cross and two other men managed to get past the legal barrier to have an extraordinary meeting with the heads of the pharmaceutical companies involved and put an end to years of legal infighting is of particular interest.

Roger Poole is a retired community pharmacist

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11116465

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