Preface and Acknowledgments
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ix PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Joe Salgado’s funeral in 2008 was on one of those rare August days when New Jersey was pleasantly warm instead of suffocatingly hot. Saint Joseph’s Church in Raritan was packed, so his old friend, Eric Weinberg, stood in back. The priest and Joe’s children told the mourners how Joe had gotten on his knees every morning to thank God for His blessings. He was only fifty-nine, but they were grateful for the time they had together. It was, after all, years longer than Joe’s family had expected. The irony of that hit Weinberg: somehow, all that Joe had been through had enriched his life in ways his friend could only try to understand. Later, standing at his graveside in Sacred Heart Cemetery, on a rise above the Millstone River, Weinberg remembered how, some twenty- five years earlier, Joe had joked about Weinberg joining the softball team for the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, where they had worked together as lawyers. Jews can’t play softball, Salgado ribbed him, and they stuck Weinberg in the outfield. It was true—Weinberg was more of a basketball guy—but that year, they made it to the final four of the law enforcement state softball tournament, and, in a key game against the state police, Weinberg hit everything they threw at him. You were hot as a firecracker, a retired detective reminded him at the cemetery. It felt good to laugh a little and reminisce, as if Joe were there with them, listening. Joe was just a little older than Weinberg when they met in 1980, but it was only a few months after Weinberg’s father had died, so Joe became his mentor. He was the one who encouraged Weinberg when he failed the bar exam the first time around, the one he could talk to about anything . Joe was serious and tough but also kind and funny, and he loved fishing almost as much as he loved his wife and kids. His obituary said PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS x he died peacefully at home, but Weinberg knew about the lifetime of pain that had led up to that day, even though they had not talked much about it. The day Joe finally told Weinberg he was sick was in 1993, during lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He said what Weinberg already pretty much knew, since by then, Weinberg had been representing similar clients for two years: Joe was born with hemophilia, a rare bleeding disorder that usually is hereditary and found in males, and he had been infected with the AIDS virus and hepatitis from using contaminated blood-clotting products. Then Joe asked him to be his lawyer, too, saying it had taken him years to realize that his suffering was not an act of God—as the drug industry liked to call it in legal pleadings—but of man. The years passed. Weinberg spent them on Joe’s case and hundreds of others like it. Just before Joe died, Weinberg wanted to visit, but his friend didn’t want people to remember him that way. His faith and his family had sustained and enriched him. Illness was part of his life, but Joe never let it define who he was. Joe was a piece on a global chessboard, one that included patients, doctors, researchers, not-for-profit organizations, and four major pharmaceutical companies, along with health officials and politicians from many nations. But this was no game: it was, and is, one of the largest public health disasters in modern history. And it isn’t over. How many victims are involved? In the United States alone, government agencies and hemophilia activists have estimated that in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, between six thousand and ten thousand hemophiliacs— about half of the country’s total, and as many as 90 to 95 percent with severe hemophilia—were sickened from tainted clotting products. An additional twelve thousand Americans are believed to have received HIV-infected blood transfusions. Another, unknown number—so poorly defined and studied that for years, officials could put it only at somewhere between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand—were infected with hepatitis C from blood and plasma products. Many thousands more were stricken in Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia—in other words, on every continent and in every nation where the products were used. Those countries are PREFACE...


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