Editor's choice

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 30 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:0

Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges

”Press announcements released last year about an outbreak of a brain disease, spongiform encephalopathy, in the cattle of south west Britain were received with alarming indifference by the medical profession as well as by the general public,” wrote house officer T A Holt and dietitian J Phillips in the BMJ of 4 June 1988. Now the topic has the undivided attention of both, which must bring little joy to the authors. In her news story Luisa Dillner details the government statements on the probable links between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (p 795). Two contributors to our series of articles last November considering the transmissibility of the agent responsible for BSE to humans provide clinical and epidemiological commentaries on the government's report (p 790, 791). Sheila Gore lists the minimum data set that the government needs to collect, and as importantly, regularly publish. We also publish several letters in response to Richard Lacey's suggestion that BSE is being maintained by vertical and horizontal transmission (p 843). And Tony Delamothe reports how the issue has dominated the news over the past week (p 854). All these articles, and those we have previously published on the topic, may be found at a special BSE home page we have posted on the Internet (

As another doctor is struck off for fraud (p 798) Richard Smith endorses the idea of a central committee devoted to research misconduct, a suggestion made by Stephen Lock in a BMJ editorial two years ago. Unless the British medical profession sets about tackling such misconduct effectively - a task it has persistently shirked - Smith argues that the government will take the initiative “and doctors' ability to regulate themselves will be thrown further into doubt” (p 789).

In a grim week we offer farce, if not exactly light relief, in Luk Joossens and Martin Raw's account of the European Union's tobacco subsidies (p 832). They show that such subsidies are economic nonsense and argue that they are now indefensible. The authors first advanced these arguments in 1991. Joossens's employer, the Bureau for Action on Smoking Prevention, has since been closed down - after angering the agriculture directorate of the European Commission over tobacco subsidies.

View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial