Criminal charges possible in Saudi HIV blood transfusion: former judge

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Seven Saudi health officials who were fired for injecting a 12-year-old girl with HIV-infected blood could face criminal charges if found to have done so intentionally, a former judge told Al Arabiya on Monday.

The story of Reham Hakami has sent shockwaves across the kingdom, following news that she received HIV through a blood transfusion in Jazan Public Hospital.

“There could be criminal charges filed if the intent of giving the girl the virus is proven, but until then there are bodies within the justice system in Saudi Arabia that can rule on medical mistakes,” said former Saudi judge Mohammed al-Dehaim.

Hakami went to the hospital, in the southern city of Jazan, after experiencing back pain several days ago. A few hours after she was released, an ambulance showed up in front of her house to take her back to the hospital for blood tests, which showed that she was HIV positive because of the blood transfusion.

Hakami’s family, which has been in contact with local media and social-networking activists, received news that she will be transferred to King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh for treatment.

Minister of Health Abdullah al-Rabeah visited the girl on Saturday, and promised a thorough investigation. He gave her an iPad as a gift from his ministry.

A preliminary probe resulted in the firing of the hospital chief, along with officials and physicians involved, including those who conducted the blood transfusion.

The ministry said it sent the investigation’s results to court for civil and criminal liability to be taken against the individuals.

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