Letter: Risks of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on victims of the growth hormone manufactured from organs infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease raises further questions about this 'rare' disease. Even if the mortuary technicians had been issued with guidelines not to remove pituitary glands from corpses marked as dead from CJD, this would have been no guarantee of safety.

While the medical profession may take seriously possible symptoms among younger persons, this may not be the case among the aged. Similar symptoms may be passsed over as 'inevitable ageing' or incorrectly diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease, as was the case of my mother. By 1990, at the age of 72, she showed unexpected physical and mental deterioration, clear to friends and relatives.

It was only by mid-1991 that the professionals recognised, at our insistence, that the problems were more than bladder control. After her death, in 1992, my sister and I insisted on sending her brain tissue to a university research unit. Contrary to her death certificate, still not corrected, CJD was diagnosed.

How many others are dying of CJD without being recorded?

Yours faithfully,

JUDITH OKELY

(reader in social anthropology)

Edinburgh

17 August

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