Anguish of mum's fight to get people tested for disease

New Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan. 
Picture: Loughlan Campbell

New Portsmouth MP ‘inundated’ with residents’ concerns about fire safety in city

His frail body contorted in pain, Andrew Black lies on his bed just days before dying of the human strain of mad cow disease.

Now this harrowing photograph of Andrew, who died aged 24 in 2007, has been handed to a leading expert by his mother Christine Lord in a bid to present others suffering the same fate.

Mrs Lord, from Southsea, handed over the photo during an emotional appeal on live television to Dr Michael Powers QC, a leading authority on coroners' law.

She wants coroners to back her calls for all post-mortems to include a check for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

She says that would help establish how common the disease is because people can carry the infection without showing any symptoms.

She believes that once scientists know how widespread the condition is, they can take measures to stop it spreading through blood donations and medical procedures.

Coroners have so far been reluctant to support the proposal because it may interfere with their primary task of finding a cause of death.

Mrs Lord said: 'I'm urging coroners to do this test but they are shirking their responsibility.

'How many people in car crashes and suicides have been carrying it?

'It should be an automatic test for it, done to keep everybody safe because potentially we are looking at a second wave of deaths where people are passed the disease through blood donations and surgery.'

The Coroners' Society of England and Wales refused to officially comment but reports suggest the society has already told officials they do not support the proposals because testing for vCJD would compromise their neutrality.

Mrs Lord added: 'Losing Andrew has decided my future.

'He was dying and he said "mum, find out who did this to me and expose them".

'This must never happen again. I'm calling for prevention to stop any mother from having to sit where I am. If I can prevent just one death from vCJD then my job will be done.'

Dr Powers said making pathologists check for vCJD would require a change in the law and suggested alterations be made to the Coroners and Justice Bill, going through Parliament, to put a duty on coroners to order the test. 'That would solve the problem,' he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said a pilot scheme to obtain tissue samples from post-mortem examinations with the co-operation of some coroners would take place later this year.

'It's important to obtain a better understanding of the prevalence of vCJD so that we can prevent secondary transmission from person to person,' the spokesman said.

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