A French court has acquitted six people, on trial in connection with the deaths of scores of patients who contracted Creutzfeld-Jakob disease after being treated with tainted growth-hormones in the 1980’s.
The court said it was impossible to be certain that the doctors and pharmacists were aware of the risk of contamination by CJD, which was little known at the time. “We had hoped for some kind of prison sentences, even probation, but at least some sort of condemnation for what they had done. It would have been the least they could have done,” said the mother of one victim. The verdict came after a 17-year investigation into the deaths of at least 114 people. The defendants were acquitted of manslaughter and aggravated deception, among other charges. “Even though there has been a lot of suffering, this does not necessarily mean that a criminal offence has been committed. It is not suffering nor even common sense that determines criminal law, it is the penal code,” said a lawyer for the defendants. The case stemmed from a 20-year programme to treat thousands of French children with growth hormones taken from the pituitary glands of human corpses. The brain wasting disease caused rapid dementia and death. The three most recent cases died in 2008. An appeal against the verdict has been started.