By Nicholas Regush

JUNE 25, 2003



I'm sure you'll recall that civets, the tiny animals that are raised as a
delicacy for Asian consumers, were recently proclaimed to be key carriers
and transmitters of the so-called SARS virus (said to be a coronavirus).

Well, as it turns out, the civets show no evidence of having been infected
by the so-called SARS virus. This comes after much media brouhaha that
civets were one source of the SARS-causing coronavirus (in humans).

Of course, humans rolled into the so-called SARS category often turn up
with no sign of having been infected with the so-called SARS virus either.

And now, civet raisers in Taiwan have filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong,
demanding $10 million as compensation for their devastated trade.

They are holding the University of Hong Kong accountable for a report that
now appears to have been hastily produced.

Very intriguing.

Obviously, there is a lesson to be learned here. And maybe, just maybe,
people who have been victimized by false scientific assertions about their
health, might one day, in huge numbers, hold the Gods of Science
accountable for their speculations and hasty proclamations about causation
and the safety of treatment regimens.

Debate in science is one thing and uncertainty is to be expected, as new
data come in, but the developing trend of mouthing off (with strong
encouragement from the media) without strong and reproducible science, is
getting out of control. A lot of this type of scientific blathering can be
traced back to the beginnings of AIDS when it seemed that opinion often
substituted for scientific evidence. (It still does.)

When public health-related pronouncements based on speculation or hasty
science lead to personal harm and/or economic devastation, there should be
some accountability.

The lawsuit in Hong Kong may open the floodgates of discontent.