LONDON – Princess Diana might have survived a 1997 car crash if French medics had brought her to a hospital faster, a leading British surgeon told an inquest into her death Monday.
Dr. Thomas Treasure, a former president of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery, said the medics did "very substantial good" in the initial period after the accident but that once Diana was in the ambulance, time began "slipping away."
Dr. Treasure, who was asked to review records of the treatment given to Diana for coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, conceded the princess' internal injuries were serious. But he said it was theoretically possible she might have been saved.
He discussed what he called a difference between the French approach to victims of multiple injuries, which favors treatment by doctors at the scene, and the British approach of transporting patients to a hospital as quickly as possible.
Diana died after the Mercedes she was riding in slammed into a pillar in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris while being pursued by paparazzi on the night of Aug. 31, 1997.
The crash also killed Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul. French and British police have concluded that Paul, the acting security chief at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, was well over the legal alcohol limit when the accident occurred.
Witnesses have testified that Diana suffered massive internal bleeding because of a rupture to a pulmonary vein attached to her heart and the casing of the heart itself.
After being removed from the badly damaged vehicle, she had an apparent cardiac arrest and was given heart massage and stabilized before being put into the ambulance and treated there.
The accident occurred about 12:25 a.m. But it was not until 1:40 a.m. that she was considered stable enough to be taken to a French hospital across Paris, where she arrived at 2:06 a.m.
The ambulance went slowly to avoid destabilizing the princess and stopped for about five minutes near the hospital when Diana's blood pressure needed stabilizing, the inquest has been told.
In other testimony Monday, French Dr. Andre Lienhart said Diana was so agitated as medics first treated her that she tore out an intravenous drip medics inserted into her arm.
Despite efforts by a surgeon at the hospital and by one of France's top cardio-thoracic surgeons, Dr. Alain Pavie, who was called in from home, efforts to save Diana ended at 4 a.m.
Treasure said Diana might have survived if the journey to the hospital had been faster, a specialist team had been on standby at the hospital when she arrived and a surgeon had opened up Diana's chest from the front rather than the side. He also questioned the large doses of Adrenalin given to her at the hospital.
"That's my analysis," he said of Diana's treatment. "They (the medics) had done a lot of good in that first half hour, but from there the next big amount of good that could be done required a surgeon."
Nicholas Hilliard, a lawyer at the inquest, asked: "Is it your view that part of that time, the essential period, was squandered?"
"It's a hard word, isn't it? But I think opportunities were lost," Treasure said. "When I pick through this with the benefit of hindsight (and ask) 'Was this recoverable?' the answer is 'Yes, it just about was'."