Hungarian court rules for hepatitis C patient infected by transfusion

BUDAPEST (Reuters Health) – In a precedent-setting case, a Hungarian patient infected with hepatitis C through a blood transfusion during a 1993 hospital operation won a lawsuit against the Hungarian state on Thursday. The ruling could affect the compensation claims of some 150,000 Hungarians carrying the virus.

The Pest Central District Court awarded Ft 3 million ($10,700) in damages and a monthly Ft 15,000 ($53) allowance to an unidentified patient infected with hepatitis C, Bela Horvath, a lawyer representing 150 people who infected individuals, told reporters on Friday. The ruling is still subject to appeal.

So far, the Hungarian state has only been willing to pay damages to those patients who were infected with the virus via blood products used to treat hemophilia, but refused to compensate those who contracted the virus through blood transfusions at hospitals.

According to Horvath, there are an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people in Hungary who were infected with the virus this way.

Earlier, in a separate lawsuit, Laszlo Pelyhe and others sued the state on behalf of a large number of hemophiliacs who were infected with hepatitis C during their regular treatment in Hungarian hospitals. Local clinics only started screening blood donors for the virus in 1992. Prior to that date, unscreened blood products were used to treat hemophiliacs.

In 2000, Pelyhe and his co-plaintiffs won the lawsuit and were awarded Ft 4 million in damages and a Ft 14,000 monthly compensation.

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