I’m thinking about the Public Inquiry into Contaminated Blood. The one gearing up for its first public hearings this April.
Admittedly my title isn’t pedantically fair as this is the first statutory public inquiry we have had. However, anyone who has been involved with campaigning as long as I have will know the sinking, drowning familiarity I’m feeling.
Whilst previous investigations have been a. privately funded and powerless, in the case of Lord Archer’s Inquiry in 2007 onwards and b. Scottish government funded and despicably disappointing, in the case of the Penrose Inquiry, which concluded (far too strong a word) in 2014; this one run by Sir Brian Langstaff has thus far shown its teeth and they are gnashing.
The team have been rigourous in following the evidence, in banging on doors we never had access to and kicking them in to demand documentation. They have got much to go through but already we are starting to hear depressingly familiar tales of items going missing, being accidentally destroyed or being withheld as legally compromising or not relevant. That’s for the Inquiry team to decide, not those being required to provide. Hand them over you obfuscators.
My point is that many of us infected and affected have provided our personal evidence to previous inquiries. The act of doing that, and equally this, is one that causes immeasurable pain and reinforces the powerlessness that is as relevant today as it was when we were children not deemed worthy of safe treatment, or parents not told the risks or the damage that had advertently been done. We get the absolutely traumatic pleasure of revisiting, reliving in fact, the moments of disaster and devastation in our lives, which in most cases rather like our NHS record holders we had boxed up and hidden far inside the recesses of our mind in an attempt to stay sane. Healthy it is not. Imperative it is.
The other day I was doing some much needed, self funded, therapy on my current state of mind with a practitioner who specialises in rewriting the impact of the past. Suddenly I was back attending the Archer Inquiry. Sitting in a small room in Westminster, on a table as there weren’t enough chairs, with friends and strangers. All of whom had terrifying stories to tell of infection not disclosed, of known risks unmitigated and lives decimated. I felt for the first time a deeply disturbing understanding of just how powerless we were and just how dangerous those were with the power to decide where the treatment came from and those with the power to decide how it was used and on whom.
You’d think I’d have been aware of this from my previous almost 10 years of my own known Hepatitis C contamination and campaigning. I was. I had been party to these things being exposed, to the deceit and lies already being fed us victims. However, hearing individuals revealing in public, in some cases for the first time, just what had happened to them, to their children. What those they trusted had done to abuse that trust and achieve their own Machiavellian goals. This had a huge impact on me. I think this was the first time I felt the overwhelming depth of that betrayal, that devastation in all its despicable glory. It opened my eyes and destroyed me then. It is doing that again to all the infected and affected now.
My light hearted lyrical reference of a title belies the trauma we are currently all reviving and reliving, that we are all prepared to go through for the next two plus years. It is far from easy, it is not safe and it will cause lasting damage to top that already done.
We do this to ourselves so that you too may know and feel the depth of destruction that has been caused. The drowning sense of decimation I first felt in that room in Westminster. You will come to know what we know, what we suspect and what we probably don’t even imagine. It all has to come out, at pain of death and of lives destroyed but still on-going.
That it all comes out is in the hands of Sir Brian and his team. We hand them our faith and hope to hell, which is where we currently reside, that the truth will out. That those who took the power from us patients to wield it imperiously, dangerously, over us; will be held to public account and we will get justice for their crimes.