Public still at risk in the BSE saga :Letter

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Sir: It took the Department of Health seven years (1985-92) to tell the 2000 or so families that the human growth hormone (HGH) injections received by their children were contaminated by CJD ("The hidden harvest of death", 20 July).

The development of CJD (and the other spongy-brain diseases) depends not only on the dose of the virus, but also on the genotype - a rare one - of the individual and the probability is that most if not all of the hitherto unaffected "victims" of this disaster are genetically not susceptible to CJD. I therefore suggested in your columns (Letters, 19 August 1993) and in a letter to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) that it would be a kindness to the suffering families to offer to establish the genotype of each potential "victim". Buried in the circumlocution of the CMO's dismissive answer to my letter is the immortal phrase ". . . the situation is being kept under review . . ." Four years on the families are still waiting for such an offer.

It was known to the neurological fraternity of the world by 1969 that CJD was an infection with this unique and sinister virus. Even if we allow a whole further year for this information to have percolated around the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health it takes us to, say, 1 July 1971. Why then was Mr Justice Morland so ungenerous as to pick on 1 July 1977 as the deadline for possible litigation?

Patricia Wynn Davies emphasises that this HGH catastrophe has nothing to do with BSE. But there is one sinister connection: negligence by the Ministry of Health in the HGH saga has caused members of the public to develop CJD and negligence of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has put and is still putting members of the public at risk of developing CJD in the BSE saga.


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