Wednesday, 6 July 2011

McDonald, R (on the application of) v Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

David Cameron, October 2010

The Supreme Court have made a decision in the case of Elaine McDonald a former principal ballerina in the Scottish Ballet. The legal arguments are varied but centre around whether there was a fair review of care conducted, whether the decision infringed Ms McDonald's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and whether there was a breach of section 21 and 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (now superseded by Equality Act 2010)

On a 4-1 majority the Supreme Court have dismissed Ms McDonald's appeal. Whilst the legal principles are important, for most of us they aren't relevant. The crux of this issue is very simple.

"What do we, as a society, think is an acceptable way to treat our elderly people, our disabled people, our sick people?"

The answer from the courts is damning to us all. It says that as a country we find it acceptable to leave our elderly people, our disabled people, our sick people lying in their own piss. All night. Even when that person is not incontinent and only requires a few moments assistance from another person to ensure their dignity and comfort.

Is this what we want for our mothers and fathers? Is it what we want for our grandparents? For a generation who fought for all our freedoms? Is this what we want for ourselves? Even if you don't really care about sick or disabled people one day we will all be old. We will all be vulnerable. We will all learn the lessons of powerlessness, of how it feels to have our lives held in an uncaring hand. When that time comes for you, do you really want to be left in your own urine. All night. Every night. Until you die?


Erika said...

This has really upset me, it could happen to anyone and like you say would you really like to be left in your own mess every night for the next 10, 20, 30y? Lucky are those with family carers who for a pitance provide care. Those of us on our own are left quite literaly in the shit.

fourbanks said...

I'm afraid this all to common the vast majority of people in this situation would never even have taken this to court for all sorts of reasons and suffer or die as the case may be and would have come to one attention
As for the judges their judgment was very poor as it normally is when matters of the sick and disabled are concerned

With such a inadequate prime minister in David Cameron things can only get much worse

Dandelion said...

Yes, things will get worse if we let this go. Which is why I suggest that everyone who is sickened by this should email Councillor Fiona Buxton at Kensington & Chelsea to voice their protest (email address here: and afterwards if you're on Twitter, join the tweetstorm at @RBKC. Let's see if we can't make a difference on this

Anonymous said...

I feel so broken hearted about all this... Do people realise it's not just a matter of being wet for hours.. When you lie in urine or faeces it burns all your skin, becomes very sore & causes infections etc.. when you are left alone in a nappy what it does to your body & spirit is so unbearable but i have no choice...
Whatever disability that makes it impossible for you to move without help stays with you as you lie awake (day or night)..
In my case i live alone...not only can i not get to the toilet but i suffer seizures & vertigo attacks which also cause incontinence & vomitting or i just can't hang on any longer...
At any point i might choke to death having a seizures or vertigo attacks together...
Having to also face being stuck in a dirty nappy totally breaks down your strength to care for yourself or feel you are worth anything....

Anonymous said...

This development is extremely distressing. I have worked with Elaine Macdonald in the past, and know well her spirit, tenacity, grace and capacity to be amazing in the face of extreme pain. She was a ballerina. You try standing on tiptoe and not showing pain.

How long will it be before people in care homes are told to wet the bed?

It will be cheaper than paying night staff. The focus of the court's judgement, that it is safer to wet the bed than to be helped to a commode, is opening the door to potential neglect and abuse under the guise of health and safety. Cost-cutting is more like it.

The decision to treat somebody as incontinent, when they are not, it's perverse. It also flies in the face of NHS guidelines and the government's own position.

So many disabled people have been treated with perversity for so long. People told that they can do things when they can't. People told that they can't do things when they can.

So much for the expert opinion that disabled people have concerning their own lives.