The victims of Q fever want compensation from the government and goat farmers, and the national ombudsman says the ex-minister should offer an apology. An apology can help, giving the patient some moral support, says Maria Koelen, professor of Health and Society.
‘But in these kinds of cases the government is always cautious because who should you blame? You soon end up with a discussion about whether the government was negligent. The minister carries the political responsibility but can only make a decision once there is a diagnosis and a reliable assessment of the health problem. As I understand it, the Q fever bacterium was discovered purely by chance in healthy people will flu-like symptoms. Then it gradually became clear that the strain of Q fever that affected goats can be transmitted to humans and makes them very ill. Knowledge about the bird flu was developed in a similar way. With the knowledge we have now, the alarm bells go off as soon as a test comes out positive. It took a while before the disease was identified but does that constitute negligence? I am not a lawyer and a verdict on the government was already reached two years ago by the commission led by my fellow professor Gert van Dijk.'