Former blood bank head says his memory of events "skimpy"


A FORMER national director of the Blood Transfusion Service Board (BTSB) told the tribunal of inquiry into the hepatitis C scandal yesterday he was unaware a family member had tried to slam a door in the face of someone serving a summons on him to attend the tribunal.

Dr Jack O'Riordan (82), who retired in 1985, did not recall details of procedures in 1976 when Patient X, who was undergoing plasma exchange, contracted jaundice. He did not recall signing a certificate of an investigation into the case. His memory of the events was "skimpy".

"Let us face the reality, sir, I cannot recall a hell of a lot of these things. How could I?" he told the tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Finlay.

He did not remember concern in 1977 that the anti D, made from Patient X's plasma, was being linked to an outbreak of hepatitis at the Rotunda Hospital.

The decision to discontinue using the plasma was probably made at one of the scientific meetings at the BTSB, he said, but "it was dealt with by the particular department responsible for pro curing the plasma".

Plasma from patient X would not necessarily have been then destroyed or withdrawn, he said. "I would hold back for the time being until we had more information," he said, when asked what his recommendation would have been.

Nothing known to be contaminated would be used. He would first have to be 100 per cent satisfied it was safe.

He agreed that a letter in 1977, from Dr Dane of the Middlesex Hospital in London, which gave an inconclusive result on Patient X's plasma samples, could not be regarded as an all clear. He would be surprised, he said, if batches of anti D made from the plasma had continued to be issued.

He did not recall being asked to provide a written statement to the tribunal. He did not recall if his lawyer had asked him to look at documents before the hearing, and he had not asked to see old files.

"Why was that? Did you think that they might help you to recall, doctor?" said Mr James Nugent for the tribunal.

"No comment," Dr O'Riordan said.

In reply to Mr John Rogers SC, for Positive Action and the McCole family, Dr O'Riordan said he was aware that Mrs Brigid McCole had died. He was not aware of any detail of her High Court action for damages against the BTSB. He was sure he had not; given BTSB lawyers a statement of events from 1976/77 in connection with the McCole case. The lawyers came to his house "to have a chat". "I told them my recollection of things was hazy, and there was nothing I could do, he said.

He said he could not recall the nature of the expert group inquiry into the BTSB in 1994, and that if the expert group wrote to him, he "may not have got the letter". Asked why he did not want to help the group, he said he did not recall any precise reason.

The whole time I was in Pelican House, and it was a mighty long time and a remarkable number of people went through as donors, never once do I recall having a single problem that had to be referred to legal proceedings, insurance or matters like that," he" said.