No one responsible for woman’s death

A CORONER has ruled no one was to blame for the death of a Nigerian woman who died while awaiting a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital. Coroner David Morris recorded a verdict of death from natural causes on 29-year-old Ese Elizabeth Alabi. She had bee

A CORONER has ruled no one was to blame for the death of a Nigerian woman who died while awaiting a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital.

Coroner David Morris recorded a verdict of death from natural causes on 29-year-old Ese Elizabeth Alabi.

She had been barred from being put on the urgent transplant waiting list because of her immigration status and died before the situation could be resolved.

On Thursday Mr Morris announced his decision following an inquest hearing last month.


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He said: "I find that at no stage was there gross negligence or failure on the part of any person or institution."

The inquest - nearly two years after Ms Alabi's death - heard how her visa had expired several months before she died, but she had remained in Britain illegally.

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She had argued that she had no choice as she was too ill to travel - she had recently given birth and was dying from a heart problem.

The coroner was also told that the mother of three was considered by doctors at Papworth to be clinically appropriate for a transplant. But they were stopped from carrying out the operation by Government regulations preventing non-EU nationals from being treated on the NHS.

By the time the then Home Secretary John Reid stepped in and was due to make a decision Ms Alabi was too ill to be saved. She died in May 2006.

Her partner Abiodun Abe said in a statement at the inquest: "I watched her slowly die before me. I strongly believe she could have been saved."

Ms Alabi had been living with Mr Abe, who has indefinite leave to stay, in Grays, Essex. She came to Britain in September 2005, pregnant with their twins and intended to return to Nigeria for the birth.

But she began feeling ill and breathless and was told she was not well enough to fly home.

Her condition deteriorated and, in March, Ms Alabi was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and told her only hope was a transplant.

However, she was told that new Government rules meant she could be put only on the lower priority list which, with a severe shortage of donated hearts, meant she stood little chance of a transplant.

Lawyers battled for a judicial review of Papworth Hospital's decision, and challenged the NHS Blood and Transport Special Health Authority's decision not to allocate her a new heart.

However, the judge adjourned the case for inquiries about Ms Alabia's application for exceptional leave to remain.

Mr Morris said while there may have been no 'sense of urgency' apparent with the application, he could not criticise the process.

"The degree of urgency or priority of determination was not immediately clear or appreciated," he said. "I do not criticise the fact that leave had not, in the circumstances then understood, been granted prior to Ms Alabi's death six days later. The sense of urgency may not have been apparent or fully appreciated by all concerned outside the hospital in their endeavours to save this lady's life.

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