Elaine McDonald: Care ruling ‘shameful’

Posted on: 07 July 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Prima ballerina loses fight for overnight care and dignity

Elaine McDonald BBC

Elaine McDonald, 67, a former prima ballerina who was left with poor mobility following a stroke, has lost her battle with Kensington and Chelsea Council. In the hearing, the court ruled that the council had not acted unlawfully by denying her the overnight care she desperately needed.

In denying Elaine an overnight carer, the council have saved £22,000 but stripped her of her dignity. Speaking on BBC news, Elaine told viewers that without the overnight carer she would be forced to stay in bed from 8.30pm (when her day care left) to 8.30am when they returned. Her night time carer would usually help her get up to use the bathroom.  Without a carer, the council has suggested she use incontinence pads, regardless of the fact that Ms Mcdonald is not incontinent. So, should she need the bathroom, she would have to soil herself and not be assisted until the next morning.

Age UK have described this ruling as ‘shameful’ a feeling certainly echoed by us at 50connect, and I’m sure our members too. To strip an immobile lady of her dignity in such a brutal manner seems to go against everything our social services were founded to provide. But in a time of cutbacks and financial uncertainty, it seems it is the most vulnerable who must suffer. 

Compare this story to the revelation that the two newly built aircraft carriers will be coming in at a whopping £10 billion, suddenly Elaine’s £22,000 for night time assistance pales into insignificance. The cost to her dignity and well being however is not measurable.

Michelle Mitchell, director at Age UK, which took the case to court told the BBC, “Older people have a fundamental right to dignity and forcing someone to sleep in their own urine and faeces could not be more undignified. This judgement opens the doors to warehousing older people in their own homes without regard to their quality of life.”

What the court has ruled in this case, is that spending the night sleeping in your own faeces does not affect your fundamental human rights, which clearly sets a worrying precedent for the future. We spoke to Elaine’s lawyer Douglas Joy who assured us that from their point of view this case was far from over. They plan to take an appeal on to European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg subject to funding from the equality of human rights committee who have been funding their case up to this point. They will continue to challenge the decision sighting Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life, which rightfully they feel has been breached with this absurd suggestion that being forced to use incontinence pads for 12-hour stints is not a breach of human rights! 

We quickly asked how Elaine was handling all of this media frenzy, to which he replied “Oh, she’s fine. She really is a remarkable woman and takes it all in her stride, she is more upset for other people than herself!”

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If you have an elderly relative in a similar situation or you are worried about their rights here’s our advice...

  • Contact Age UK. The campaign charity that believes older people should be equal citizens with equal rights. They have a free national information line open 365 days a year (0800 169 6565) as well as information factsheets on their website. If you have a case, they’ll know which direction to point you.
  • Go to your local MP. If you’re being ignored, you might need to get a bigger voice, which is where our MP’s come in – we did elect them after all. Head to the parliament website to find your MP.

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