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Hemophilia expert Takeshi Abe, who was facing an appeals trial over his acquittal in a professional negligence case, died of heart failure Monday evening at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 88.

The Tokyo High Court suspended the appeals trial in February 2004 after it determined the former Teikyo University vice president was mentally incompetent.

The high court is expected to formally dismiss the case now that Abe is dead.

Abe was acquitted in March 2001 by the Tokyo District Court of professional negligence resulting in the death of one of his patients from AIDS in 1991.

The court ruled that Abe, who had plead not guilty, was not criminally responsible for the death of a male hemophiliac by allowing the use of unheated blood-clotting agents tainted with HIV in 1985. It was difficult for him to have known that the patient could contract HIV through tainted blood products, according to the court.

Prosecutors had argued that he gave the instructions to administer the blood products despite knowing of the dangers they posed the patient. They had demanded a three-year prison term for Abe.

The prosecutors had appealed to the high court, claiming it was obvious Abe was negligent because he could have predicted the use of imported, unheated blood products could result in patients being infected with HIV. However, the appeals trial was suspended in February 2004 due to Abe’s senile dementia.

Abe served as head of the Japanese Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis as well as president of the Japanese Society of Hematology. He was considered the top authority on the treatment of hemophilia. He was also chief of the AIDS study group at the health ministry when it was set up in 1983.

The infection of hemophiliacs with HIV has been blamed on negligence by the state, doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

More than 1,400 hemophiliacs contracted HIV from unheated blood products given to them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. About 500 of them have since died.

Infected hemophiliacs and relatives filed damages lawsuits against the state and the pharmaceutical companies in 1989. Most of the cases were settled in 1996 after the state and five drug companies apologized and agreed to pay compensation.

Akihito Matsumura, 63, a former high-ranking health ministry official, was also accused of professional negligence in the deaths of two people, including the man named in Abe’s trial, by failing to implement administrative measures to halt the use of HIV-contaminated blood products in the 1980s.

In 2001, the Tokyo District Court gave Matsumura a suspended one-year prison term for one of the deaths, but acquitted him in the case of Abe’s patient.

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