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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK


Health

Blair orders pill death review

Caroline Bacon's mother suspects the pill caused her death

Prime Minister Tony Blair has ordered a review of the case of a teenager who died after taking the contraceptive pill, following a plea from her mother.

Caroline Bacon started taking the pill when she was 14, without her parents' knowledge. She suffered a stroke at 15 which left her in a coma and died soon after her 16th birthday in 1994.

According to the Daily Mail, her mother Jenny has been calling for an inquiry into the affair after the inquest declared that she died of natural causes brought on by broncho-pneumonia.

She doubts the inquest findings and says Caroline was given the pill despite telling the family planning doctor she had a history of migraine headaches.

Jenny sent a letter to the Prime Minister about her daughter.

Lower dose

The review by the NHS Executive will concentrate on the specifics of Caroline's death and will not study the wider issues concerning the prescribing of pills to under-age girls.

It will report back to Mr Blair and Health Secretary Frank Dobson.


[ image: Teenagers are more likely to get pregnant in the UK than elsewhere in Europe]
Teenagers are more likely to get pregnant in the UK than elsewhere in Europe
In its early days, several studies showed a link between the contraceptive pill and strokes, but recent research suggests the current pill, with a lower dose of oestrogen, has very little effect on a woman's risk of having a stroke.

One of the problems for researchers is that the number of young women who suffer strokes is very small, making it hard to prove any risk.

However, there are certain other factors which put women at risk. These include a history of migraine headaches.

Usually, family planning clinics and doctors check a patient's medical history before prescribing the pill. Those not recommended to take the pill include women with a history of blood clots, stroke, kidney disease and high blood pressure.

Women who suffer migraines after taking the pill are also advised to stop taking it.

Scares

There have been several scares about the contraceptive pill over the years. The most recent involves the risk of develpoing cerebral-vein thrombosis. This can lead to clots on the brain and to death, but it is very rare.

Experts say the risks are outweighed by the advantages of taking the pill, including its effectiveness in lowering ovarian cancer and cancer of the lining of the womb.

However, the scare is thought to have led to a drop in women taking the pill and an increase in pregnancies and abortions.

Family planning organisations argue that girls under 16 should be allowed to get the pill without their parents being informed.

They say the risk of teenage pregnancy is much greater than that of taking the pill and that girls need to be encouraged to come forward.

Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe.



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Internet Links

Oral contraceptive factsheet

New England Journal of Medicine article on stroke risk from the pill


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