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Hearing to Close over HIV Infection Case
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The hearing of the first civil case of its kind in the country, involving 16 people who contracted the HIV virus from contaminated blood supplies sold by a couple, is due to come to a close today.

The hearing, which began on Tuesday, has seen the two sides fighting over the extent of liability and the amount of compensation.

A total of 19 people have been found to be suffering with the HIV virus since the first case was detected in September 2004 in Bei'an, a small county in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

The infection source was a man surnamed Sun and his wife, who had sold blood to the Worker's Hospital of Bei'an Construction Farm.

Fifteen of the victims were directly infected because of transfusions of the blood in the hospital, while the other four, either spouses or offspring, were indirectly infected.

Sun's wife died in 2002, and Sun himself died in August 2004, just one month before the first infection case was detected.

In June 2005, Bei'an Farm Court, a local court, sentenced Wang Jun, the director of the hospital at that time, Li Zhiyong, the deputy director and Yang Xu, the director in charge of blood testing in the hospital, to imprisonment for two, five and 10 years respectively.

This week's civil hearing, being held in Heilongjiang Farm Intermediate People's Court, is seeing 16 of the 19 victims seeking total compensation of more than 30 million yuan (US$ 3.7 million) from the hospital as well as the farm.

It has focused not on whether the defendants were liable to pay compensation, but how much they should pay out.

Legal arguments so far include whether the case relates to medical malpractice regulations or more serious laws.

Zhou Bin, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said: "Nineteen innocent people's lives were cruelly shattered and sentenced to a death penalty by the illegal blood collection of the hospital."

The compensation sum could be halved if calculated as a case of medical malpractice, according to Zhou.

Zhan Zhijian, representing the defendants, admitted that the case centred on how much compensation should be paid.

"I fully understand the mood of the victims, but the case is one of medical malpractice," he said.

Wang Beijing, a member of the Chinese Medical Doctors Association and director of the Legal Affairs Department of the Peking University First Hospital, supported Zhan's position.

"The hospital violated the Blood Donation Law initially and the damage was then caused when the defendants conducted medical activities, so medical malpractice regulations apply in this case," he said.

(China Daily January 19, 2006)

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