Connor Sparrowhawk Blog Post – Easy read version

Update: You can read this post with pictures here: Connor Sparrowhawk Easy Read Blog Post. This link will open a pdf file. The picture version was prepared by a charity called Change. Change is run by people with learning disabilities.

A report has been published about Connor Sparrowhawk who died last year. You can get a copy of the report by going to this website:

You can read about Connor’s life at this website:

Connor Sparrowhawk had learning disabilities. Connor also had epilepsy. He had to go into hospital. In hospital he had an epileptic seizure in the bath. Connor died because of the seizure.

After Connor died 2 people investigated what happened. They wrote a report. The report said staff should have watched Connor carefully.

Connor needed to be watched to keep him safe. If the staff at hospital had watched Connor he might not have died.

I want to know if the hospital broke the law. I want to know about Connor’s human rights.

Connor had a right to life. The hospital had to protect Connor’s right to life. If someone dies at the hospital the hospital has to find out why.

The report helps to protect the lives of other people with learning disabilities. It tells the hospital how to care for people with epilepsy.

But I want to know if the hospital should pay some money to Connor’s family to say sorry. This money is called damages.

Sometimes hospitals need to pay damages to say sorry. Sometimes hospitals do not. It depends on whether they knew Connor was very likely to die.

If the hospital knew Connor was very likely to die and they did not keep him safe then they should pay damages.

The report does not tell us if the hospital knew that Connor was very likely to die. If Connor’s family want damages they might go to court. Or they might not want to go to court.

I think the law here is causing problems. Sometimes hospitals are scared to talk to families about how people died and what went wrong. They may be scared that if they talk about what happened they will be saying they knew the person was very likely to die and they did not keep him safe.

This makes it hard for families to find out why someone died.

When someone dies their families are terribly sad. If they do not know why the person died they feel angry and frightened too. I think we should try and make the law clearer so hospitals and families can talk about why someone has died.


The death of Connor Sparrowhawk and liability of public authorities

Connor Sparrowhawk died in an assessment and treatment centre in Oxford in July 2013 after suffering an epileptic seizure whilst he took a bath. Connor had been diagnosed as having epilepsy for two years, was receiving medication for his condition and there were many signs in the weeks preceding his death that his seizure activity might have increased.

An independent report commissioned by Southern Healthcare NHS Trust which runs the centre where Connor was a patient has just been published. It has found that Connor’s death could have been prevented if staff had recognised that his epilepsy created risks around taking baths and conducted a proper risk assessment.

This post is not about the report. Instead it is a reflection about the current state of the law on the liabilities of state institutions responsible for detaining people who subsequently die in their care. Continue reading

When the Political is Personal Part 3

Am I over-qualified or under-qualified to comment on cases concerning mad women who might become pregnant. They affect me deeply for reasons that should now be obvious. But is this affective awareness a qualification? It is not self-evident that lived experience of disability makes me better able to criticise the current operation of the law than my other attributes – I was an academic lawyer long before I developed epilepsy. Continue reading

When the Personal is Political Part 2

Why is the personal political…

There have been some more caesarean section judgments which I will not link to for reasons which I have outlined in Part 1. You can find press commentary on them if you want to.

But this post is about my own experiences of mental disorder and how this would affect childbirth. And the reason I have decided to write something so self-indulgent is because I can, I have the autonomy to disclose my own story without adversely affecting the privacy interests of anyone else. Continue reading

When the Political is Personal Part 1

Paradoxically this is a blogpost about a group of cases which I do not want to talk about. So it should be short. Instead I have had to break these posts into three because as I started to explore this interlinked set of topics I realised they raised more issues than I had imagined possible.

The cases which triggered these reflections are those concerning substitute decisions made on behalf of women experiencing mental disorders during childbirth. Continue reading