Transplant doctors 'altered story'

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Consultants at the top of the medical profession were yesterday accused of changing their story over why a 15-year-old girl had been denied a liver transplant after taking ecstasy.

David Burnside, lawyer for Michelle Paul's family, claimed doctors at the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit in Edinburgh had decided not to operate on her for moral reasons.

But they had shifted their position in evidence given to the inquiry into Michelle's death because they realised the public would not accept that such decisions could be made on non-medical grounds, he said.

Mr Burnside's allegations came during his final submission to Sheriff Graeme Warner on the eighth and final day of a fatal accident inquiry at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

However, Norma Shippin, for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary NHS Trust, rejected Mr Burnside's assertion that the transplant team had retrospectively realigned its position.

Michelle died at the liver unit in November 1995, two weeks after taking half a tablet of ecstasy at a rave near her home in Aberdeen. She had been transferred to the unit from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Her death was one of the first recorded cases resulting from ecstasy-induced liver failure.

In his submission, the Procurator-fiscal, Alf Vannet, said he was sure the inquiry had expressed the "awful potential danger" of experimenting with drugs such as ecstasy.

Michelle's mother Carolann, 37, speaking outside the court, said she hoped the inquiry would prevent a similar tragedy happening to another child. "I am impressed by the way the whole thing has been handled and the consideration given to looking into all the different aspects," she said.

"I would hope something positive will come out of it - to stop something like this happening to someone else's child. It has been a really traumatic experience, but I do appreciate all the time and effort that has gone into it."

Mrs Paul, who has attended every sitting of the inquiry, said she thought some lessons had already been learnt from Michelle's death and that more could be learnt. Family members said they wished to reserve further comment until Sheriff Warner had published his written determination, which he said at the close of proceedings would not be until late July or early August.

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