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Dissertation by Carol Grayson on Contaminated Blood Products

In 2007 Carol Grayson published her dissertation entitled ‘Blood flows not just through our veins but through our minds. How has the global politics of blood impacted on the the UK haemophilia community’.

The research plots the history of the global blood trade and how it lead to the infection by their NHS treatment of over 4,500 people with bleeding disorders with HIV and hepatitis viruses. It also, in Chapter 4, critiques the Government report Self-Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales – A Chronology from 1973 to 1991 which as of November 2017 is no longer referenced by the DH or to be used in its briefings.


Many haemophiliacs were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses during the 1970s and 1980s following treatment with plasma products in NHS hospitals. This dissertation investigates the politics of the global blood trade by examining blood policy documents from the 1960s to the present day and analyses the impact of these policies on the UK haemophilia community. The study critiques the findings of a Government report (DOH, 2006) which claimed that the benefits of importing U.S. plasma from remunerated prison and “skid-row” donors outweighed the viral risks to patients. A textual analysis of material originating from the Department Of Health and other organisations examines the Government’s failure to achieve self-sufficiency in the manufacture of UK blood products. The anthropological inquiry explores how decisions made by institutions nationally and internationally continue to affect haemophiliacs and their families to this day. The investigation highlights the ethical problems that can arise when blood becomes a commodity and profit is prioritised over safety and how this is interpreted by those at the receiving end of contaminated treatment. Key themes were identified by examining the replies from questionnaires sent out to haemophiliacs and their partners and illustrate the way in which they have adapted to their current situation. The report concludes that research participants have re-evaluated their personal identity and revised their collective response as an infected “subculture” within society to challenge the power of the institutions they deem responsible for the demise of their community. This study recommends that the Government commissions a full and open independent public inquiry into how patients came to be infected through their NHS treatment.

The full dissertation is available below:


The research won the 2009 Michael Young prize awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council and reported on at the time here. More background on Ms Grayson and her work is available here.