Wednesday 29 January 2020

'It is a matter of great sadness' - court makes order preventing son and husband visiting woman in hospital

President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly
President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly

Tim Healy

The president of the High Court has made orders preventing an elderly woman been visited in hospital by either her son or husband arising from concerns over their alleged behaviour there.

The son was previously secretly recorded at home as threatening and verbally abusing his mother, who has dementia,  and had tried last week to remove her from the hospital, the court was told. There were also concerns his father was “complicit” with the son in allegedly seeking to interfere with her care and treatment there, the court heard.

On Monday, when the case returned before him, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he was making the woman a ward of court following a report from a court appointed medical visitor stating she lacked capacity to make decisions affecting her health and welfare. 

Having heard evidence from the HSE over incidents at the hospital, the judge said he was reluctantly making orders restraining either the son or his father visiting the woman.

The medical evidence suggests the woman “does not have a lot of time left in the world” and it is a matter of “great sadness” that  some members of her family appear to be making her life more distressing than it already is, he said.

The way the son treats his mother is “extraordinary”, the judge added.  “He seems to think he knows best.”

Both the son and father had left the court earlier after the son failed in an application for an inquiry, under Article 40 of the Constitution, into the legality of his mother’s detention.

The judge refused the inquiry on the basis the son’s complaints related to the circumstances of the woman’s removal from her home by gardai early last month to bring her to hospital. An Article 40 inquiry must relate to her present detention in the hospital which is on foot of orders made by the court, he said.

After he made that decision, the son left court immediately and his father left shortly afterwards.

They left despite being advised by the judge to remain as various orders being sought by the HSE would affect them.

Before they left court, the son complained he had not been provided with a recording of exchanges between himself, his mother and father at their home last month. The judge said there was a 23 page transcript of that which, the court previously heard, included exchanges where the son described his mother as a “mad bitch”. 

The son previously told the court "underlying issues" built up when caring for someone with dementia and said he was otherwise offering very good care to his mother.

In the absence of both men, the judge made orders taking the woman into wardship, continuing her detention in hospital and providing for her to be moved to a residential facility when that is considered appropriate. He also made orders for her treatment and restraining any interference with that by the son or his father.

He noted the matter had been adjourned to today to facilitate a request from the son and father to get lawyers but they had not done so and had not filed replying affidavits disputing the sworn evidence.

The “frightening thing” about new laws on assisted decision making is that it would be likely the son would be the guardian of his mother, the judge added. The relevant law is not yet in force, he noted.

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