Widow of prominent lawyer calls for halt to insulin system after tragic death
The widow of a leading Scottish lawyer has called on health boards across the country to stop using an insulin management system until the safety of patients can be guaranteed.
Paul McNairney, a prominent advocate, died last month aged just 39 after spending several days in intensive care.
His family fear that a faulty medical device delivered a fatal dose of insulin to the diabetic as he slept. Now, they are calling for answers over “how things went wrong.”
Mr McNairney received the Omnipod device on the NHS and had been using it since the summer with no issues.
The wearable pump delivers insulin automatically, removing the need for numerous injections, and comes with a companion device to track data.
Insulet, the US firm that makes the pods, makes new users complete practitioner-led training before they get their device, and Mr McNairney completed the course in July.
But on 7 November, his widow, Scott Craig, found him in bed dripping with sweat and pale. He used an emergency glucagon syringe, but after no response, called an ambulance.
Paramedics injected Mr McNairney with glucose before taking him to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. But after several days in intensive care it was confirmed the advocate suffered catastrophic and irreparable brain damage.
The Omnipod device was later taken by Police Scotland and forwarded by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.
Mr Craig, 42, said he wanted to raise urgent awareness over his fears more people could be affected by faulty Omnipods.
He said: “This device is used worldwide so people need to know what happened as even a single avoidable death is one too many.”
An exact cause of death is still to be confirmed but Digby Brown Solicitors claimed that there was “alarming” data from Mr McNairney’s Omnipod.
At breakfast time, the pod should have delivered 1.15 units to balance blood sugar with food intake, known as a ‘bolus dose’.
But Digby Brown said records obtained from the pod’s companion device showed that Mr McNairney received a bolus dose of 16.9 units, enough to put him in a coma.
The pod, it added, then administered three more bolus doses – each at 17.05 units – over the next 48 minutes, the equivalent of four days’ worth of insulin.
Mr Craig said his husband had lived with diabetes all his life have been diagosed at the age of two, and was an “expert” at managing his condition.
He said: “I believe there is no way Paul died because of an oversight on his part.
“He managed his condition his whole life and used syringes for years without issue but died within months of using this pod? I think this is more than coincidence.
“I need to know how this happened. Paul’s family and friends need to know. Other pod users need to know. We all deserve to know.”
Mr Craig added: “Paul was intelligent, kind and calm. He was also uncommonly humble and could instantly be friends with anyone.
“I don’t know how I’m meant to get over this, we only married five months ago.”
Mark Gibson, head of product liability at Digby Brown, said: “Firstly, I commend Mr Craig talking about the loss of his husband in the hope of helping others - it takes great strength to do so.
“As I understand it a medical device is indeed being analysed by the authorities for any part it may have played in the death of Mr McNairney and in the meantime we will continue to support his loved ones and help them get the answers they deserve.”
Mr McNairney was admitted to the Bar in 2013, and appeared in cases in the Court of Session, the sheriff courts, the Sheriff Appeal Court and the Lands Tribunal.
He studied law at the University of Strathclyde, where he obtained first-class honours. As a solicitor he practised predominately in commercial litigation with particular emphasis on commercial contracts, insolvency and intellectual property.
In a statement, Insulet, which is based in Massachusetts, said it extended its “deepest condolences” to Mr McNairney’s family at a difficult time.
It added: “Consumer safety is Insulet’s number one priority. Our products are highly regulated, and we have comprehensive controls and procedures in place to ensure the safety of our products.
“Insulet has been made aware of this unfortunate incident and is working with the MHRA in the UK to obtain the device for further investigation. At this point, we do not have evidence of a device malfunction or performance issue.
“Further analysis will be conducted upon receiving the device. Insulet has been safely and effectively designing, manufacturing, and distributing the Omnipod system for more than 15 years and it is safe to use as intended with a prescription.”
A spokeswoman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the death of a 39-year-old man in Glasgow on 10 November.
"The investigation into the death is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland referred enquiries about Mr McNairney’s death to the Crown Office.
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