Judge allows pensioner right to leave care home

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The High Court have ruled in favour of a 67-year-old pensioner leaving a nursing home she “hates” and returning to her home despite fears she may die without constant care.  The judge stated she “cannot be forced to endure a daily life without meaning of happiness.”

Healthcare bosses had warned she risked death by leaving the home that provided her with 24-hour-a-day monitoring to control her acute insulin-dependent diabetes, alongside other illnesses.  The NHS body in charge of her treatment says this type of care is impossible to provide in her home.

The woman, who had been judged to lack the mental capacity to choose for herself where she lives, had said that she would prefer to die than be made to stay in the residential nursing home.  Together with her partner she challenged a Deprivation of Liberty Authorisation imposed on her last year, insisting that her desire to go home should be respected.

The judge, Mr Justice Jackson, praised the nursing home’s efforts at looking after her and ruled that she should receive regular medical supervision and care at her home.  He stated “Her views are quite understandable bearing in mind her restricted and impoverished quality of life in the home.  This is no fault of the home itself, but it is in most ways not a suitable place for her.  What it does offer is the best available quality of care for her diabetes management, but at what cost?  In the end, if she remains confined in a home she is entitled to ask: ‘what for?’ the only answer that could be provided at the moment is: ‘to keep you alive as long as possible’.  In my view this is not a sufficient answer.”

Mr Justice Jackson said that the right to life and the State’s obligation to protect it are “not absolute.”  The Court must surely have regard to the person’s own assessment of their quality of life and prioritising the longevity of life could not always be justified “at the cost of happiness.”

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