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Mad cow disease often sounds to many people like this slightly exotic, somehow distant malady that affects cattle more than humans, that is more inconvenient than a consequential factor in people's lives.

Yesterday's edition of The New York Times Magazine, however, put a remarkably human face on mad cow disease, telling the story of Jonathan Simms, who suffers from mad cow disease. He lies in a Belfast hospital, "thin and pale, and…jerking with involuntary spasms." Simms' condition, according to the NYT, "comes from eating the meat of animals that have been infected with the insidious disease, and it incubates in the human body for years, even decades, before attacking the brain suddenly and mercilessly."

However, the article isn't just a scare story about mad cow disease. It also is a story of Simms' parents, who have worked tirelessly to get him access to radical treatments that might cure him, or at least arrest the development of the disease.

The NYT reports: "Using the modern parent's avenue of appeal -- the Internet -- Don set out to save his son. Quitting his job and delving into this world of death full time, Don first found researchers with drugs that had shown promise in test tubes -- but that had never been tried in humans. Next, he found surgeons who knew nothing of those drugs but a great deal about the human brain. He introduced them to one another and knocked down the legal obstacles that prevented them from experimenting on his boy.

"'They ask me how I can expose my son to something that might be dangerous,' he says of the ethicists and experts who disagree with his methods. 'Yes, this is an experimental treatment, but we are not experimenting for experiment's sake. We don't know if it will work. But if he dies, I will know I did everything I could. My wife and I will know in our hearts that we tried everything and that his death will not have been in vain.'"
KC's View:
This is a remarkable story. You can, and should, read the entire piece at: