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TV Producer’s Mother Died Of AIDS From Transfusion With AM-Deadly Transfusions, Bjt

May 14, 1994 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After her mother died of AIDS, television producer Linda Bloodworth- Thomason struck back: She sued the hospital that gave her mother the infected blood transfusion and she wrote a special episode about AIDS for her ″Designing Women.″

Claudia Bloodworth received an HIV-infected transfusion in Memphis in June 1983. She died of AIDS in 1986 at age 67.

Bloodworth, tennis star Arthur Ashe and thousands of other Americans who developed AIDS from transfusions received between March 1983 and March 1985 might well have been spared by a simple test. Ashe, who also received a tainted transfusion in June 1983, died last year. He was 49.

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Officials from the Centers for Disease Control urged the American Red Cross and other blood-bank organizations in January 1983 to adopt a blood screening test, which they said could have been in place by March of that year. The blood groups refused to do so, saying the hepatitis B test was too expensive and there was no hard evidence people could get the virus that causes AIDS from transfusions.

″I think the Red Cross is the most culpable organization in the deaths of all these people because they are supposed to be the leader in the blood- banking community,″ Bloodworth-Thomason said in a telephone interview. ″The truth is every one of these people could have lived if the Red Cross had acted responsibly.″

The Red Cross, which takes donations through its 45 blood services regions, is custodian of half the nation’s blood supply and sells blood and its components to about 3,000 hospitals.

Questioned recently, the Red Cross said the effectiveness of the hepatitis B blood test was ″an open question″ in 1983. ″Had there been evidence indicating the efficacy of any surrogate test, the Red Cross would have implemented it,″ the organization said in a statement.

But internal documents obtained by The Associated Press show that while they made that argument publicly, Red Cross officials privately acknowledged there was strong evidence that AIDS could be transmitted through blood.

Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, where Claudia Bloodworth received her transfusion, had its own blood bank not affiliated with the Red Cross. But Bloodworth-Thomason said she was angered by the Red Cross’s rejection of the screening test, citing what she sees as the agency’s role as leader in the blood-banking community, and she believes the responsible officials should be prosecuted.

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″Everyone got off the hook but the victims,″ she said.

Bloodworth-Thomason sued the Memphis hospital in 1987 and eventually received a settlement. Under terms of the agreement, no details were disclosed. Victims and their families have filed some 500 similar lawsuits around the nation against hospitals, the Red Cross and other blood banks, and nearly all of them have been settled out of court.

Bloodworth-Thomason also founded an organization in her mother’s honor, The Claudia Company, to help women in the Ozarks region. She and her husband Harry Thomason, who is also her business partner, are close friends of the Clintons. Bloodworth-Thomason grew up in Poplar Bluff, Mo., near the Arkansas border; Thomason was a high school football coach in Arkansas.

Their shows, especially ″Designing Women″ and ″Evening Shade,″ brought the quirks and charms of that region to prime-time television.

″Killing All the Right People″ was the title of the episode about AIDS that Bloodworth-Thomason wrote in 1987 for ″Designing Women.″ In half an hour, she attacked ignorance and self-righteousness, provided information about AIDS and made a case for sexual abstinence.