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Monday, 18 June 2012

A tragedy of missed opportunities

I have always been a big fan of the Bronte sisters and have read everything they wrote. But as well as their writing I have always been moved by the tragedy of their lives. The three famous sisters all died young – particularly Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Ann (Tenant of Wildfell Hall) who both died in their twenties from tuberculosis. In fact in those days a diagnosis of TB was a death sentence.

How times have changed? 

It is now an illness which is very treatable with antibiotics.

All of this makes the story of Alina Sarag even more tragic.

She was a healthy teenager who became ill in October 2010 following a holiday in Pakistan. She had previously suffered from what is known as latent TB. She attended her local GP surgery on about 9 occasions. When she was finally referred to hospital, her earlier illness was not mentioned. She was seen by a series of medical professionals before she was diagnosed with TB. Tragically it was too late for treatment and she died in January 2011.

For so many opportunities to be missed and for a child to die of this condition in 2011 after so many missed opportunities is almost unforgivable.

At an inquest in Birmingham last week the coroner said –

"A diagnosis should have been made and treatment should have been started. I am satisfied that the failure to take action did have a direct causal connection to Alina's death,"

It is to be expected that there will now be a legal claim by her family and I hope that the
GMC will take disciplinary action against the doctors who failed to refer her.

This case also highlights the terrible injustice of removing legal aid in cases like this. After April 2013 it will become extremely difficult for ordinary people to pursue cases like this. It is hard to imagine a case more deserving of justice, or which highlights more clearly the unfairness of the recent steps by politicians to remove access to justice. We could face the double scandal of lives ruined by failings of NHS doctors and those very victims being deprived of justice by the government.

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