HC Deb 07 June 1883 vol 279 cc1918-9

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether one of the Board's officers, in the course of an investigation into the conditions under which syphilis can be transmitted in the act of vaccination, has infected himself with syphilis, and has seriously injured his health; and, whether, if that be true, the conditions under which he succeeded in infecting himself were such as might occur during legitimate operations of vaccination?


Yes, Sir; the facts are substantially as stated in the first part of this Question. The officer to whom my right hon. Friend refers, believing that syphilis, although it had very rarely indeed been communicated in any of the operations of vaccination, nevertheless could, under some circumstances, be so communicated, was desirous of learning the conditions under which such a transmission was possible. His object was to obtain better information than any of the rare and accidental cases hitherto reported could afford respecting the precautions proper to be taken for avoiding even risk of such an occurrence during the practice of vaccination. The investigation required experiments to be made on the human body; and these, though, of course, not acting as an officer of the Board, he proceeded to make on his own person, and at the end of his experiment he did infect himself with syphilis. The case is at present the subject of skilled inquiry, and a complete reply to the second part of the Question cannot be given until it has been reported on. I may say, however, that I believe that the result of transmitting the infection of syphilis was not attained without departure in essential respects from the Board's instructions to public vaccinators, and from the recognized practice of all vaccinators. I cannot conclude without expressing my esteem for this official's self-devotion, and my regret for the personal suffering which he has endured through his honourable sacrifice of himself in the interests of science and humanity.


asked whether it had not been long known and admitted by the Medical Profession that syphilis might be communicated by vaccination?


I said that in rare and accidental circumstances, and under special circumstances, it might.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact, decided by the highest medical authorities, that it was quite impossible, under all circumstances, to detect the syphilitic taint which might exist in a child from whom the vaccination lymph might have been taken?


The scientific Report which was being prepared on the present case shows that the circumstances are such as must be brought to the notice of medical practitioners.