pounds 1.4m award for family of CJD victim

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THE RELATIVES of a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon who died from CJD accepted pounds 1.4m damages in the High Court yesterday as a settlement to their compensation claim. Neil Kreibich, who was treated with contaminated human growth hormone as a youngster, died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in July 1997.

At a hearing in London, Mr Justice Morland approved the settlement figure to be paid to Mr Kreibich's widow, Elizabeth, a nurse who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, and their children; Anna, seven, William, five, and Robert, three.

The sum was awarded by consent against the Department of Health. Stephen Irwin QC, counsel for Mrs Kreibich, told the judge that her husband was treated with growth hormone between 1976 and 1977. He trained as a doctor and became "a very successful orthopaedic surgeon", added Mr Irwin.

Mr Kreibich began to show symptoms of CJD, including loss of balance, in early 1996, while working as a consultant at the Freeman Hospital and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

"There was a clinical diagnosis in June 1996 and he died in July 1997," added Mr Irwin.

Between 1959 and 1985 nearly 2,000 children in the UK, whose growth was stunted by a deficiency in secretion of growth hormone in their pituitaries, were treated with hormone from the glands of cadavers. The programme was ended in May 1985 after several children who had been treated in America died of CJD.

Yesterday's approval of a settlement figure came in the resumption of proceedings. A judgment in favour of Mrs Kreibich was made in the High Court in June last year. In effect, the award ended the test-case hearings resulting from the CJD litigation group action, launched in 1994. Damages awards in the group action cases are believed to excede pounds 5m.

Settlements have been made in 22 cases of people who contracted the fatal disease, and in 36 psychiatric cases, but lawyers acting for the group say a further eight cases of people who have contracted the disease have yet to be dealt with and some 40 to 50 psychiatric claims are being looked at.