Letter: No cover-up in Europe over BSE

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The Independent Online
Sir: Could I indicate my agreement with the article (15 November) by Andrew Puddephatt, director of Charter 88, on the democratic problems that permitted the BSE crisis.

As one of the few medics in the field able to speak out (no family, no mortgage), I have been denied information and put down as a crank by Maff. All the way through it has seemed as if only internal ideas and decisions could be correct and that anything that suggested human risk was invalid. Misinformation was put out from central sources: the Public Health Laboratory Service was kept out from something that was clearly a matter for experts in the human epidemiology of infectious disease, and other governments and advisors were given inadequate data with which to make decisions.

Things must improve: research must be liberally funded (more than pounds 100 million is needed on independent research). For instance, it is essential that we find out the number of people who are currently incubating BSE, as planning for the future and blood transfusion risks must be considered. The Medical Research Council recently turned down the application to do this. At a recent conference I asked 26 drug companies if they were considering looking for a CJD treatment. None were.

The real change took place when Professor John Pattison became the chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. He is looked on as an honest and open person by all groups and his presence has meant that external ideas are at least being considered. Pattison has been the hero that got valid information through to the Government, but under the current system of democracy he might never have arrived.

Dr STEPHEN DEALLER

Consultant Medical Microbiologist

Burnley General Hospital

Burnley, Lancashire

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