Monday 10 December 2018

High Court sits in nursing home for epilepsy victim's case

Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Picture: Damien Eagers
Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Picture: Damien Eagers

Derek Fanning

The High Court decamped to a nursing home in a rural town to hear the case of a man with life-long epilepsy appealing to be allowed to go home.

The President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the "unusual" situation arose because the man's treating doctor believed the stress of court proceedings in a formal setting could trigger a seizure.

The man is opposing a HSE application to have him made a ward of court. The case had previously been heard in the Four Courts in June.

Doctors have offered conflicting views about whether the man has the necessary mental capacity to make decisions affecting his health and finances.

His treating consultant geriatrician and a court- appointed medical visitor, who is a consultant psychiatrist, said that the man lacks capacity.

The court was told he had been admitted to hospital multiple times, and had become malnourished when living in his home.

However, two consultant geriatricians who assessed him last May for the court proceedings disagreed, and said they believe he has the necessary capacity.

The man, who cannot be identified, is aged in his 60s and has been in the nursing home for several months, and said he would prefer to be at home.

He said previously he wanted to be at home so he could walk to his mother's grave.

In his evidence yesterday at the two-hour hearing, the man said he believed he did have the capacity to decide where he would live and he did understand how to manage his finances.

He said that when he was living at home he bought his meals from a local garage and heated them in his microwave, or he got food delivered by meals on wheels. He said he had been well treated under HSE care but he wanted to return home.

"In January, after a seizure, they discharged me from hospital and I thought I was going home but then I was sent to a nursing home.

"I don't think it's necessary for me to be in a nursing home to keep myself safe," the man said.

Giving evidence yesterday, a consultant psychiatrist said she considered he lacked abstract thought processes.

"He is unconcerned and detached from the seriousness of his situation," she said.

The expert said there was evidence of damage on both sides of his brain including a lesion/scar in the temporal lobe following a hospital operation on his brain many years ago.

She said she tried to find the man's remaining relations but had been unable to do so.

The consultant said that the man had been OK until his mother died six years ago.

She had managed his life and looked after him very well.

"Following her death, his life was torn apart and he wasn't able to cope," the expert said.

Meanwhile, the man's treating doctor told the judge that he had had 18 seizures since being admitted to the nursing home, which were managed in a supported environment, and he had thrived in the nursing home.

"The question is, does he have the capacity?" said Mr Justice Kelly.

"If someone has the capacity then he cannot be prevented from going where he will."

He said he would rule on the case in the Four Courts next Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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