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Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK


Gene therapy doctor suspended

The Hammersmith Hospital in west London

A senior doctor at a west London hospital has been suspended following allegations about the treatment of some private overseas patients.

The patients had been referred to the liver surgery unit of the London Hammersmith Hospital as part of a research programme.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper claims there were allegations that safety controls in a pioneering gene therapy trial on dying liver cancer patients were breached.

The paper says the trial at the hospital involved the use of the influenza virus, one of the world's most infectious diseases.

Kept in isolation

The allegations are said to centre on the question of whether patients were kept in isolation for the three days required, in order to keep to the trial protocol.

The research is part of a joint British and Danish research project.

The newspaper says the investigation will focus on whether safety controls were in place to ensure infections did not spread from terminally ill foreign patients to others.

A spokesman for Hammersmith Hospitals Trust said:"The Trust can confirm that a senior member of the academic clinical staff has been suspended."

Indepndent inquiry

The suspension was announced in advance of an independent inquiry into "allegations about the treatment of some private overseas patients, referred to the liver surgery unit at the Hammersmith Hospital, as part of a research programme.

"The allegations relate to the possible use of gene therapy and, because of the complex nature of the matters under investigation, and the fact that overseas patients are involved, the inquiry is being set up by the London Regional Office of the NHS Executive."

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