CJD families will get at least pounds 120,000;
mad cow disease: experts fear human variant could eventually become an epidemic

October 1, 2001 Western Mail by Steve Dube
FAMILIES of victims killed by the human form of mad cow disease will receive at least pounds 120,000 each in compensation.

UK Health Secretary Alan Milburn promised a pounds 55m trust fund to settle compensation claims from relatives of people struck down by new variant CJD.

There have been 101 deaths from vCJD and five people are still in hospital suffering from the fatal condition. They are believed to have contracted the disease by eating meat or by-products from infected cattle. Some experts are warning of an epidemic and Mr Milburn said the fund would be updated if more cases were discovered.

But the Department of Health said that the scale of future payments might have to be reviewed in the event of much larger numbers of victims.

Mr Milburn said each of the victims or their families would receive an immediate one-off payment of pounds 50,000 and none would eventually receive less than pounds 120,000, depending on individual circumstances.

He said, "I hope that these payments go some way towards recognising the pain and trauma experienced by victims and their families. "Variant CJD is a national and personal tragedy for those affected. It is right that the families receive this compensation."

Terry Harvey, from Stepaside, Pembrokeshire, whose daughter Marianne died of vCJD in August 1999, said the money was not important.

"It's never been about money, " said Mr Harvey, who is an active member of two campaign groups, the BSE Foundation and the vCJD unit.

"What else can they do? They can't bring them back, they can only throw money at us."

Mr Harvey said he and his wife Rae-Dee burst into tears when they received an interim compensation payment a few months ago.

"It made us realise that it really was happening to us. It's another letter we have to read and it's upsetting.

"My wife has been suffering before, during and up to now and is registered disabled because of depression and stress."

He said the money would be used to help their other four children, aged 31, 16, 12 and nine.

The family is bitter about the civil servants and ministers who were criticised in the BSE inquiry for hiding the truth about the dangers of mad cow disease.

"I blame them totally. The inquiry named five ministers but I blame the whole Cabinet because they all knew about it and tried to cover it up, " he said.

"This government has made an effort and that's all they can do, but if the Tories were in power we wouldn't have had a public inquiry at all."

It's now known that mechanicallyrecovered meat, which used tissue now banned from cattle long after the outbreak of mad cow disease, was widely used in baby foods, burgers, sausages, pate, jellies and some ready-cooked meals.

The disease has a long gestation period and the BSE Foundation has warned of a strong possibility of an epidemic. The number of vCJD cases has already shown an alarming increase.

"I really hope there isn't an epidemic and I hope they find a cure very quickly, " said Mr Harvey.

Six deaths recorded in Wales SIX of the 101 deaths from vCJD have been recorded in Wales.

Alison Williams, 30, a clerical assistant from Caernarfon, died in February 1996 from pneumonia caused by vCJD.

Vicky Rimmer, 20, of Connah's Quay, Flintshire, was diagnosed in 1993 at the age of 15. She died in 1997.

Her grandmother told the BSE inquiry that a doctor from the national CJD surveillance unit told her not to go to the Press, saying, "Think of the economy, think of the EEC."

Lisa Crowe, 29, a mother of one from North Wales, died in December 1998. Her mother Jean said she particularly loved beefburgers and beef products.

Marianne Harvey, a 25-year-old potter from Stepaside, died in August 1999 two -and-a-half years after her family noticed she was behaving oddly.

Karen Beavon, 37, a computer manager from Cardiff, died in July last year, just eight months after showing signs of anxiety.

Richard Cole of Reynalton, who went to the same school as Marianne Harvey in Tenby, became ill in September 1999 and died in January this year.

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