Legitimising Death in a Care Chair
Six months on from the Mazars report into the unexpected, uninvestigated deaths of 1000s of patients in the care of Southern Health and where are we when it comes to the deaths of people with learning disabilities? We’re up shit creek without a paddle if a news report that emerged yesterday is anything to go by.
The BBC reported on the death of Mary Dowd. In their report they describe Mary as “elderly” and inform that she may have had a cardiac arrest whilst sitting in a care chair. Their report can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-36232783
The excellent George Julian dig some digging and came across this report into the same incident – http://www.publicnow.com/view/183CB5AC79AA2BEB52167881D47DF4FFC26C2262?2016-05-06-15:30:52+01:00-xxx773
It’s very different from the BBC report.
The “elderly” Mary Dowd was 51! Why on earth use that adjective? Is her death more legitimate because she is “elderly”? Does the reader see the word “elderly” and skip on to the next article? Probably. And in Mary’s case, you’ve got the legitimising jackpot – learning disability and elderly. Boom. Nothing to see here. Move along now. Not worth getting into a lather about the death of someone elderly and with learning disabilities.
What the dickens is a “care chair”? Sounds all cuddly doesn’t it? You can imagine the QVC presenters salivating in sincerity as they present this item. The second article tells us that Ms Dowd was strapped into her care chair. Ah! Poorly staffed – let’s strap ’em in. We’ll call it a care chair. Make it sound nice. Draw attention away from the straps.
And then the killer. Ms Dowd was strangled by the strap in her care chair. Left unattended with horrific echoes of Connor Sparrowhawk being left alone and locked in the bath, Ms Dowd slipped down in her care chair and strangled by the strap. Let’s not beat about the bush. She was restrained and was killed by that restraint. Being elderly, care chairs are red herrings. The care less approach of the company felt it was appropriate to restrain their clients and she died.
I’m sick to death of legitimising language. The language that suggests an inevitability about the fate of the learning disabled in State care. Language that firmly identifies the person as the problem and the care provider as the victim of a terrible tragedy.
A couple of weeks back, the BBC reported how several patients had escaped from a facility run by Southern Health. One patient had managed to get to France, been brought back and escaped again. He was still missing at the time of the report. Sloven’s Medical Director, Lesley Stephens popped up on the news and started talking about the “difficult complex needs” of their client group. Lesley – your organisation claims to be mental health specialists – do your fucking job and stop losing people. In using those three words, “difficult complex needs”, Ms Stephen’s dehumanised her patients. She othered them in attempt to gain some sympathy. “Oh, poor Lesley. It must be awful having to deal with people like that”. Job done. Another scandalous example of “care” but you’re off the hook.
True story. I was set up on a blind date over 35 years ago. We were staying on a farm and my mate tried to fix me up with one of the dairy maids. We talked about our jobs and she came out with the classic – “I’d love my job if it wasn’t for the bloody cows”.
One of the dudes from Seven Days of Action recently had a “care plan review”. The hospital have given up. The only “care” featuring on his care plan is restraint and medication. That’s not a care plan. That’s a torture plan. It’s a plan to turn an unhappy dude into an unhuman. An animal in fact. Yet, this plan is legitimised because the dude is deemed to have “challenging behaviour”. I’d like a word in the shell like of Mr Responsible Clinician. “Mr RC. You find this challenging because you’re not up to the job. You’ve copped out. You can keep on drawing your salary and sit on your advisory boards in spite of your incompetence”.
We need to keep calling this out. I’d like to stop using the term ATU because we know that nothing that can be remotely called assessment and treatment takes place there. The name legitimises their existence. Joe Public sees the name and if they think about it at all, will assume that it is completely the right environment for those creatures with difficult complex needs and challenging behaviour.
Let’s call a spade a spade and from now on call ATUs what they are – Medication & Restraint Detention Centres. Less cosy but more honest.
When the BBC can indulge in such shoddy, complicit reporting as they did with their reporting of Mary Dowd’s death, my heart sinks to my boots at the prospect of any real breakthroughs coming post Mazars.
From → Social Care