French court sets May ruling in hormone scandal trial

24th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French court on Wednesday said it would rule in five months' time on the fate of two medical professionals standing trial in a decades-long investigation into contaminated growth hormones.

Judges at the court of appeals in Paris said they would give a verdict against pediatrician Elisabeth Mugnier, 61, and biochemist Fernand Dray, 88, on May 5 next year.

More than 120 French children died of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease -- the human form of "Mad Cow" disease -- from 1991 after receiving contaminated growth hormones taken from human cadavers, out of almost 1,700 who received the treatment.

Prosecutors accuse Mugnier and Dray of involuntary manslaughter, and they face at least three years in jail if convicted.

The lengthy investigation which began in 1991, has been marked by widely divergent medical opinions on the knowledge of CJD transmission when the hormone was administered in the early 1980s.

"Since scientists could not agree with each other, how can us lawyers, you jurists, develop a scientific truth?" said Olivier Metzner, a defence lawyer for Mugnier, who is accused of failing to ensure the quality of the hormones.

Seven doctors and pharmacists were involved in the original trial, which collapsed when judges found it was impossible to prove that they had knowingly exposed children to contamination.

But French prosecutors appealed in the case of Mugnier and Dray, as well as a third person who has subsequently died.

© 2010 AFP

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