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Dr. Richard Ward, Professor, Medical Epidemiology, Centre of Appled Entomology and Parasitology, Keele University, UK

Blood promise

WebPosted Sep 27 2000 2:18 PM EDT

VICTORIA - A genetic researcher at Oxford University has promised to return the blood samples he collected from nearly 900 Nuu-chah-nulth donors back in the mid-1980s.

Dr. Richard Ward collected the blood for an arthritis study. The Nuu-chah-nulth only recently found out that Ward had used the samples for other research as well, without their permission.

Ward's promise isn't good enough for Chief Larry Baird of the Ucluelet First Nation. He and his family were among the many donors who gave blood samples. "We are not going to be used as a bunch of guinea pigs," he says. "We are not a bunch of fools. We will do what we have to do to protect Nuu-chah-nulth."

Chief Baird wants Ward held accountable for what happened to the blood. He intends to press for that on Friday, when the Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council meets to discuss the issue.

The promised return of the blood is potentially good news for the many Nuu-chah-nulth people suffering from arthritis.

Karen Frank is a health worker on the Ahouset Reserve. Arthritis runs in her family. She wants to see the blood used for new medical research. "There is always progress happening," says Frank. "Maybe they'll find some way to help my family, because I see one of my sisters really suffering with her pain."

It appears B.C. medical researchers are ready to help. The University of British Columbia and some Vancouver Island doctors say they are willing to assist the Nuu-chah-nulth in storing the blood, and devising new research strategies into arthritis.