By MADLEN DAVIES FOR MAILONLINE
A 17-year-old girl died just hours after a GP failed to diagnose her with severe diabetes, a medical tribunal has heard.
Claire Taylor, from Angus, Scotland, had been ill with what she thought was a virus.
But as her condition worsened, she began vomiting bile and suffering abdominal pain – as well as developing sunken cheeks and a purple complexion.
Despite multiple consultations, her GP, Dr Michelle Watts, failed to recognise she was suffering from a life-threatening complication of diabetes which requires immediate treatment.
The tribunal heard Dr Watts failed to carry out necessary tests or refer Miss Taylor to hospital.
Instead, she prescribed her with the sleeping tablet diazepam, usually given to patients with anxiety problems.
Claire Taylor, from Angus, Scotland, died from undiagnosed diabetes after her GP repeatedly missed the warning signs – instead prescribing her sleeping pills
Dr Watts, is now in the midst of a fitness to practise hearing – which could see her struck off – and Miss Taylor’s family is also taking legal action.
She admits failing to recognise Miss Taylor had shown signs of severe diabetes, but denies dishonest and misleading record keeping.
Miss Taylor, who aspired to be a dietitian, died in the early hours of November 8, 2012.
She had booked an appointment to see Dr Watts on November 6 and complained of feeling unwell for two months.
Dr Watts worked at the Kirriemuir Health Centre in Angus and is currently associate medical director of primary care services with NHS Tayside.
During the consultation at her family home, Dr Watts failed to diagnose type 1 diabetes or test her urine, The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester was told.
She also failed to arrange for an urgent test of Miss Taylor’s blood sugar when she refused a pin prick sugar test – a detail Dr Watts failed to record.
The following day, Dr Watts was called back to Miss Taylor’s home but did not recognise signs of diabetic keto-acidosis, a life threatening complication of type 1 diabetes that is a medical emergency.
The teenager had repeatedly vomited bile, complained of abdominal pain, appeared very pale, had a purple complexion and sunken cheeks before she died
The teenager had repeatedly vomited bile, complained of abdominal pain, appeared very pale, had a blue/purple complexion and sunken cheeks.
She had also suffered significant weight loss and cold hands and appeared unable to communicate with the doctor – instead making ‘audible deep sighing noises’.
Yet Dr Watts failed to carry out an abdominal examination and failed to prepare ‘an appropriate management’ plan as she prescribed diazepam without acknowledging concerns from Miss Taylor’s mother Helen.
After she died the next morning, tests revealed she had type 1 diabetes, an immune problem which requires sufferers to inject themselves with insulin every day.
It was discovered Dr Watts had written ‘no abdominal pain’ and ‘no new symptoms’ in Miss Taylor’s medical notes.
Her family allege she knew she had new symptoms but failed to record them in an effort to protect herself against future criticism that she did not care for her patient properly.
She was trying to ‘minimise the scope’ for criticism, the tribunal heard.
Dr Watts admits failing to recognise Miss Taylor had shown signs of severe diabetes but denies dishonest and misleading record keeping.
She faces being struck off if her fitness to practise is found to be impaired.
Miss Taylor’s family have also launched legal action against Dr Watts, but it has been delayed while the tribunal hearing is concluded.
At the time of the tragedy, Mrs Taylor described her daughter as a ‘popular wee girl’ who had ‘a huge group of friends’.
She said: ‘The virus got steadily worse. She’d been getting weaker and weaker and she just slipped away. We had 17 beautiful years with her and we’ll always remember the good times.’
Her father Malcolm said Miss Taylor was a ‘wee firecracker’ who ‘gave everything 110 per cent’.
Friends described her as an ‘innocent and kind’ girl who had a ‘cheeky wee smile’.
Since her death, Miss Taylor’s family have raised significant funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Forum and held events to boost awareness of the condition.
Tests after her death revealed Miss Taylor had type 1 diabetes, an immune problem which requires sufferers to inject themselves with insulin every day
According to medical experts, consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
This happens when a severe lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy, and the body starts to break down other body tissue as an alternative energy source.
Ketones are the by-product of this process and are poisonous chemicals which build up and, if left unchecked, will cause the body to become acidic – hence the name ‘acidosis’.
It is most common in people with type1 diabetes.
According to experts, some people who do not realise they have type 1 diabetes only get diagnosed once they are very unwell with DKA.
Hospital admission and treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and glucose is essential to manage the potentially-fatal condition.