Transplant refused on 'moral grounds'

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The Independent Online
A leading liver transplant surgeon yesterday accused colleagues who refused to operate on a dying 15-year-old girl of making their decision on moral rather than medical grounds.

Professor Roger Williams, head of the liver unit at King's College Hospital, London, told a fatal accident inquiry at Aberdeen Sheriff Court into the death of Michelle Paul, who suffered liver failure after taking half an ecstasy tablet, that worries about her family background should have played no part in the decision whether to give her a transplant.

Contradicting an earlier claim by the transplant surgeon Hilary Sanfey, who headed the team at Edinburgh, Professor Williams said Michelle showed no clear sign of irreversible brain damage and she should have been listed for the operation. Her family are claiming she was denied a transplant on moral grounds because of her mother and sister's history of drug taking.

Professor Williams said there were indications that Michelle needed a transplant and accused doctors of not reacting promptly enough to her condition. A prompt transplant would have given Michelle a 75 to 85 per cent chance of survival.

He said: "Moralistic interpretations which appear to have underlain Dr Sanfey's opinions are not acceptable for a life-death decision on a young person. Such evidence as there was in this case of a disturbed psycho- social family background should not have contra-indicated a transplant."

The inquiry continues.