Why was my granddaughter refused a transplant when soccer star got two?

Girl who took ecstasy tablet died after being refused a new liver by doctors
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The Independent Online
The grandmother of a teenager who died after being denied a liver transplant yesterday challenged the right of a famous Scottish footballer to have two such operations when her own granddaughter had been refused one.

Margaret Pirie, 56, a former auxiliary nurse, told a fatal accident inquiry she had become angry when told by doctors at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary that her granddaughter, Michelle Paul, would not receive a new liver in the transplant unit. Michelle, 15, was admitted with liver failure and died 23 days after taking half an ecstasy tablet at a rave near her home in Aberdeen.

Mrs Pirie said she had asked one of the members of the medical team at the unit, Dr Niall Finlayson, why former Rangers and Scotland soccer star Jim Baxter, whom she described as an "ex-alcoholic football player", had been entitled to two liver transplants.

She claimed that Dr Finlayson told her the decision not to give her granddaughter a transplant had been made on moral grounds by the senior member of the team, Dr Hilary Sanfey.

Mrs Pirie said the moral grounds on which the decision had been made were related to Michelle's mother Carolann's background - she is a self- confessed former drug addict - and Michelle's admission that she took ecstasy.

However, when she met Dr Sanfey herself, the surgeon just kept saying that Michelle was medically unfit for a transplant, Mrs Pirie told the inquiry at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

She accused Dr Sanfey of wriggling out of answering questions about whether the decision not to go ahead with the operation had been made on moral grounds.

"As I see it, we were just not worth bothering with. That was the impression I got," she said.

Michelle's death came a week after Leah Betts, from Essex, died when she took an ecstasy tablet at her 18th birthday party.

Mrs Pirie said that she had confronted Dr Sanfrey a few days later in the hospital corridor as her granddaughter was dying.

"She asked me what was wrong," said Mrs Pirie. "I said that Michelle was going to die today."

She claimed that Dr Sanfey had told her that she would never understand, to which Mrs Pirie replied: "I said no, I never will understand, and I just said get away from me."

Mrs Pirie added: "She just kept saying Michelle was medically unfit. And I said 'Not when she came'. Not when she first came to Edinburgh."

Mrs Pirie told the court she believed the doctors were committing euthanasia. No one from the hospital had come to her or her daughter Carolann to enquire whether Michelle would be given proper support after a transplant.

She claimed that she, her husband and her daughter, would have given Michelle proper support and would have endeavoured to keep her from taking drugs.

Dr John Douglas, 47, a consultant in the hospital's infection unit, said Michelle's death from liver failure caused by taking ecstasy may have been the first case of its kind in the world. At that time there, had only been seven reported cases of ecstasy causing hepatitis, but none of liver failure.

Only after Michelle's death had cases of liver failure from ecstasy been reported.

Marie Paul, 18, told the court that she had known her sister had taken ecstasy even though she had not found out directly from Michelle.

While Michelle was in hospital in Aberdeen, before she was transferred to Edinburgh, Ms Paul had tele- phoned the police because she feared someone had given her sister drugs on the ward.

Later, one of the junior doctors on the ward, Margaret McCartney, 25, said she had also suspected Michelle had been given drugs shortly before her condition deteriorated dramatically. However, the court heard that Dr McCartney had examined her and found her "neurologically to be completely intact".

Tests later revealed no trace of drugs other than cannabis.

The inquiry, before Sheriff Graeme Warner, continues.

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