Mother tells hearing of daughter’s death

Claire Taylor who died suddenly at the age of 17.
Claire Taylor who died suddenly at the age of 17.

A Kirriemuir mother has told a medical tribunal how her daughter died from an undiagnosed diabetes attack while holding her hand.

Helen Taylor wept as she gave evidence yesterday (Wednesday) to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester at the continuing disciplinary hearing into the conduct of former local GP Michelle Watts.

Mrs Taylor claimed that she had been “laughed off” by Ms Watts when she urged the doctor to admit her daughter Claire to hospital, and told the tribunal that she suspected the 17-year-old was seriously ill with diabetes but was ignored by the GP who put Claire’s illness down to “panic breathing”.

Although Claire was showing evidence of having diabetic keto-acidosis, a potentially fatal form of the condition, it is claimed that Ms Watts, 47, failed to examine her properly during a home visit and left the house suggesting that she take a course of sleeping tablets.

Claire’s condition worsened later that night and she died in bed while her mother slept in a chair beside her.

It was later discovered that the teenager - who had a history of diabetes in the family - was suffering from Type 1 diabetes.

Mrs Taylor said that Ms Watts had “laughed off” a request for Claire to be taken to hospital to be given oxygen and although she took Claire’s pulse and listened to her chest, she did not examine her further. She also said that Ms Watts said Claire was panicking and would need diazepam to calm her down.

Claire, a keen dancer and baker, had wanted to pursue a career as a dietician as her older brother Andrew has Type 1 diabetes. She died in 2012, two months after she began to feel unwell with what appeared to be a viral infection.

Mrs Taylor took her daughter to see four doctors but sought a second opinion after Claire lost 10lb in 10 days. She booked an appointment to see Ms Watts on November 6 at Kirriemuir Health Centre. She tried to test Claire for diabetes herself before the appointment but the equipment failed.

She said that she told Ms Watts of her suspicions about Claire’s condition and that the GP had listened to her chest and said she was panic breathing. She then took Claire’s hands and told her to breathe with her before suggesting they look up mindfulness techniques to stop the anxiety.

Mrs Taylor also said that Ms Watts said Claire’s blood tests were normal and that she had a significant viral infection. She added that she had assumed that if Claire’s condition had been due to diabetes Ms Watts would have tested for it.

Ms Watts, currently NHS Tayside’s associate medical director of primary care services, admits failing to recognise Claire had shown signs of severe diabetes but denies dishonest and misleading record-keeping.

The hearing continues.