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News National

Sat, December 16, 2006

End in sight in hep-C blood scandal

UPDATED: 2006-12-16 03:19:57 MST


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Jim Gerow poses for a photograph following a news conference at the Mayfield Inn in Edmonton on Friday. His wife, Yvonne, received a blood transfusion in 1985 and learned in 1992 that she was badly infected with Hepatitis C. She died in 2003. (Edmonton Sun photo by Darryl Dyck)

Exactly three years and one day after tainted blood killed his wife, Jim Gerow is getting some closure after years of believing civil servants got away with murder.

The feds yesterday said they'll pay more than $1 billion to Canadians who contracted hepatitis C through the Canadian blood system between 1958 and 1985.

Although the settlement gives him some peace of mind, Gerow, who says he lost everything because of incompetence and lack of compassion on the part of the government, feels justice has yet to be done.

"I felt for a long time that the government and the health-care system let us down," said the Edmonton man represented by Calgary lawyer Vaughn Marshall.

Jim's wife Yvonne contracted hep-C through a blood transfusion in 1985.

Yvonne's health deteriorated, forcing Jim to become a full-time caregiver while trying to earn a living.

They had to sell their home and use up their life's savings. Jim said he couldn't keep a job because of the disease's stigma and three years ago, he lost his wife.

Yesterday's announcement is a small step towards addressing an arbitrary injustice that went unanswered for too long, said Marshall.

"Mr. Gerow is a classic example of what could've been avoided," he said.

"Lives could've been saved and people could've avoided financial devastation."

Calgary lawyer Mark Freeman said victims, as well as the estates of those who died before the announcement, should start receiving compensation by next summer.

How much each victim will receive will depend on their personal circumstances, he said.