Marathon neglect killed bride-to-be, say angry parents

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THE PARENTS of a 26-year-old woman who died as she crossed the finishing line of a half-marathon are calling for legally binding medical rules to be introduced to all such races in the UK.

Phillip and Pauline Loyley, who are millionaire owners of a shoe business, have launched a campaign calling on the Sports minister, Tony Banks, to compel race organisers to provide doctors and paramedics trained in resuscitation techniques.

The Loyleys buried their daughter, Anna, a bride-to-be, in her wedding dress after she collapsed and died following the half-marathon in Bath last year.

In the past 10 years, 70 athletes have died in marathons in the UK, they say in a letter to the British Medical Journal, published today. In France, where legally binding medical rules have been in place since 1992, eight runners have died.

Mr Loyley said yesterday that a St John Ambulance with a defibrillator had been close by the finish line when his daughter collapsed and first- aid officers reached her within a minute. However, evidence given at the inquest showed the correct procedure was not followed. Pads from the defibrillator are applied to the chest and if no heartbeat is detected it prompts the operator - visually, on a screen, and verbally - to deliver a shock. "There were nine verbal prompts to shock her and she was only shocked after the ninth - that took seven minutes," Mr Loyley said. "I can only assume from the way the staff operated the equipment that they didn't know what they were doing. I will always wonder if my daughter's life could have been saved."

Although there were suspicions that she had a symptomless heart defect, Mr Loyley said no abnormality had been found. "She was about to get married, she had a house in Hampstead, she had everything going for her. By running she believed she would lengthen her life - not shorten it."

Race organisers said the proposals were impractical because of the hundreds of events organised every year and the need to have defibrillators and medical assistance available at regular points over the full length of a race. The five deaths that have occurred during the London Marathon all occurred before the runner reached the finishing line.

According to the Loyleys, the rules of the national athletics association, UK Athletics, do not stipulate the degree or quality of care that should be provided, nor do they specify the need for advanced life support, the role of medical staff or the definition of an emergency.

A spokeswoman for UK Athletics said: "Our sympathies go out to the family of Anna Loyley but this is a difficult situation. "There are extensive precautionary measures included in the rules for staging events. The London Marathon has an impeccable record. I am a little puzzled as to what we haven't done or what we are supposed to be doing."