Few Canadians know of "Mr. L," an auto worker in Ontario who gave "the gift of life" in 1984 as part of a company blood donor drive. Many more will remember Kenneth Pittman, a 53-year-old heart patient, who died after being infected with AIDS -- from Mr. L's blood. They will also remember Mr. Pittman's wife, Rochelle, who contracted the virus from her husband because his doctor decided not to inform them of Mr. Pittman's fatal disease.
This tragic story is a microcosm of Canada's blood scandal. For over a decade, bureaucratic dithering, profits-over-protection responses, a paternalistic medical establishment and uninformed victims combined to create the worst health-care disaster in Canadian history. More than 1,200 people have contracted AIDS from tainted blood -- and the dying continues.
André Picard has produced the definitive analysis of this complex tragedy. All of the players are here -- public health officials who refused to take the "homosexual plague" seriously; the Red Cross, which worried about bad publicity and the bottom line; the too-little-too-late government that offered inadequate compensation for victims; and the arrogant medical establishment which sometimes took years to inform HIV patients of their condition; and most of all, the victims, who are paying for this betrayal with their lives.
The Gift of Death is a call for a serious re-evaluation of an outdated blood system to ensure that a similar tragedy never occurs.
About the author
André Picard is the health columnist at The Globe and Mail and one of Canada’s top public policy writers. He is also the author of the best-selling books THE PATH TO HEALTH CARE REFORM: Policies and Politics, CRITICAL CARE: Canadian Nurses Speak For Change; The Gift of Death: Confronting Canada’s Tainted Blood Tragedy and; A CALL TO ALMS: The New Face of Charity in Canada. His latest book is MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH: Public Health Issues in Canada.
André has received much acclaim for his writing, including the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, the Canadian Policy Research Award, and the Atkinson Fellowship for Public Policy Research. In 2002, he received the Centennial Prize of the Pan-American Health Organization as the top public health reporter in the Americas. In 2005, he was named Canada’s first Public Health Hero by the Canadian Public Health Association, and in 2007 he was honoured as a Champion of Mental Health. His advocacy work has been honoured by a number of consumer health groups, including Safe Kids Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and the Canadian Hearing Society.