Mad cow doctor 'silenced' by hospital

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The Independent Online
The doctor who publicised Britain's latest alleged case of Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease failed to turn up for a press conference yesterday amid reports that his silence had been requested by hospital administrators.

Glasgow's Southern General Hospital declined to confirm publicly Professor Peter Behan's diagnosis of a 15-year-old girl patient, who, he said, was dying of the human version of mad cow disease

Professor Behan's diagnosis, based on the results of a new test developed by scientists in Pasadena, California, was "a clinical judgement and one not shared by his colleagues", said a hospital spokesman.

Current tests in the UK require a brain biopsy which was not "clinically advisable", meaning the hospital may not be able to confirm diagnosis of the girl while she remains alive.

No further comment would be made by the hospital and the head of the neurology department did not wish to be associated with the matter, nor named in connection with it, said the spokesman.

Professor Behan's patient comes from the west of Scotland. On Friday he said: "This girl has only a few months to live, in my opinion. She has BSE-pattern CJD and picked it up through hamburgers. Her parents tell me she had a predilection for hamburgers."

The professor said he believed the potential for developing CJD "must reside in millions of the population, because I am sure there are many people who have eaten infected meat".

The girl, who has not been named by the hospital "to protect her privacy" and who is not aware she has contracted CJD, was admitted to the hospital a week ago with neurological problems. Last night, her condition was "poorly but stable", said the hospital spokesman.

Professor Behan, who is a professor of neurology at Glasgow University, had earlier described her future as "grim", with "an exhaustible, slow- to-rapid progression of dementia, movement disorder, incontinence and death".

It emerged yesterday he has previously "worked closely" with Professor Richard Lacey, of Leeds University, who has long argued there is a direct link between BSE or mad cow disease and CJD, in the face of Government opinion that no such link has been proven.

Professor Lacey himself said yesterday that the Glasgow case was "devastating news" and claimed that an epidemic of CJD, caused by eating infected beef, was now under way.