Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Town and Country

The hot weather finally broke today with a torrential downpour lasting three hours. I spent the day in London at a GTAC meeting. Yesterday, Diane and I took the day off and went for a walk around Kingston Lacey. This is a large house owned by the National Trust, but previously in teh hands of the Bankes family. Joseph Bankes was the most famous of these; a naturalist and collector of the nineteenth century who got into trouble for doing something disgusting with a guardsman. Rather than face the death penalty, he fled the country.

He was the MP for the area in the days when being MP was a sort of hereditary position. There were several generations of Henry, Joseph or Ralph Bankes MP. In the other half of Dorset the Weld family had a similar grasp of office.

I visited the last Ralph Bankes (not an MP) in the late 1970s. He was someone else's private patient and I had been requested to take blood for a CBC. It's an hour's drive, there and back. I remember I charged him £8. He was a tall, thin man with enormous hands and very large veins. The house was in poor order; he was land rich but income poor. He died in 1981, and being a homosexual, he left no issue. Instead of inheritance tax, his sister gave the house and grounds to the nation, together with Studland, a huge area of coastland between Poole and Swanage.

Anyway, the National Trust has renovated the house and laid out the gardens, and on a day when Bournemouth beach was crowded with bodies smelling of suntan oil, we walked round the country estate admiring the wild flowers and butterflies for about 4 hours in perfect solitude.

I didn't see much of London. We met at Wellington House, just a couple of minutes from Waterloo station, next door to the Old Vic, where Kevin Spacey is the actor/manager. Some of these gene therapy protocols are extremely difficult to understand. Today we had several new members of the committee and they were all a bit reticent in giving their opinions. There was also a division between scientists and doctors, with the scientists wanting more pre-clinical models and the doctors realising that eventually it has to go into man, and that more animal experiments won't change the human experiments. The TeGenero experience also weighs heavily on us, as two of the protocols involved going into normal volunteers. These volunteers are paid $4000 for a week's submission to the experiment. You can understand how young men would be attracted. Especially with that "It couldn't happen to me" attitude.

There are many clinical trials units springing up as commercial concerns now. The question is how they are regulated. All national health service hospitals, all private hospitals, all ambulance services, all general practioner services are regulated by the Health Commission (the organisation that my son works for). It ensures that appropriate standards are met, that patients' rights are upheld, that pharmacy standards are appropriate, that properly qualified staff are employed etc, etc. As far as we can discover, these clinical trials units are not regulated at all. Perhaps that is the lesson of TeGenero.


Anonymous said...

GTAC meaning "gene therapy advisory committee", apparently.

Anonymous said...

`Tis said that a gent called Joe Banks,
Got up to some odious pranks.
Without much delay
They sent him away,
Now `mongst botany`s famous he ranks.
(For studying mutations of plants!)