Taking wishes and feelings seriously – Easy Read version

This is an easy read version of an article about people who cannot make a decision. You can read the original article in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law.

Part 1: When do we have to make decisions for other people?
The law in England says sometimes people cannot make decisions for themselves. Sometimes people cannot make decisions because they do not understand things. Sometimes people who are very sad or very angry cannot make decisions because their feelings are so strong. Sometimes people cannot make decisions because they cannot remember what they need to know to make decisions.

When we cannot make a decision the law says other people can make the decision for us. Usually this will be someone we know well and who knows about the decision too. If someone does not understand whether they need medicine a doctor may make the decision for them. The doctor must make a decision that is in the person’s best interests.

The law says that in deciding what is in someone’s best interests the person making the decision must think about what the other person would like. If the doctor gives someone medicine she must think about what the person likes. For example some people do not like tablets. The doctor could give them a medicine which comes as a syrup instead.

Part 2: What is this article about?
Sometimes we do not know what is in someone’s best interests. When this happens the person who has to make the decision can ask a special Court to tell them. This court is called the Court of Protection.

Judges in the Court of Protection make decisions for people who cannot make a decision for themselves. I wanted to know how the judges think about what people who cannot make decisions would like.

I looked at lots of decisions that the judges had made. These decisions are called cases. Cases are very important. Judges have to look at cases that have already been decided when they make decisions. This is to make sure we treat cases that are the same in the same way.

In most of the cases the judges do not talk about what the person who cannot make a decision would like.

There are some cases where the judge does look at what the person who cannot make a decision would like.

I looked at those cases carefully. Continue reading

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: http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news/report-into-death-sparrowhawk/.

You can read about Connor’s life at this website: http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/

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.