Ruairi Cotter broke the story on 01 March in The Sun, today Wayne O’Connor picked up on it in the Sunday Independent, tomorrow morning it will be an item on RTÉ’a Morning Ireland:

Over 200 brain and spinal patients face agonising wait as beds closed
Financial issues and ongoing lack of staff and resources blamed as patients are left in limbo by shutting of hospital beds and units
More than 200 patients with serious spinal and brain injuries will face a longer wait for treatment after the closure of beds at the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
A lack of finance and resources is being blamed for the closures as the hospital, in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, does not have the required number of staff to manage increased patient workloads.

But there was another ‘item’ in the Irish Times last week that was, I believe, much more serious and even more disturbing than the incredible bed closures in the NRH.

Mary Carolan, the Irish Times court reporter, had three articles over as many days on a case the HSE has taken to the High Court. (Here is a link to article 1, article 2 and article 3.) The HSE is basically asking the High Court to allow its doctors not to resuscitate a young man with a severe acquired brain injury and not to up oxygen on his respirator – should this become necessary to save his life, against the wishes of the parents. The young man sustained the brain injury during treatment in a hospital and the parents have taken a negligence case against the HSE – which would become pointless, should the young man die. In the meantime, the HSE had made a successful application to the High Court to make the young man a ward of court as it could not reach agreement with the parents on the course of treatment, including resuscitation.

It is also important to know that the parents have seen improvements, while the doctors predict a worsening in the condition of the young man. A neuropsychiatrist has determined that the young man is conscious, in a state of minimal consciousness, and that he can follow commands. Contrary to what modern research tells us (have a look at what Joseph Fins of Cornell says in his book “Rights come to Mind”), and comparing a prognosis to looking into a crystal ball, his doctors believe that the young man has no chance of getting better.

Do you find all this hard to stomach? – If you do, you are not alone.

This should be a huge case: the health service actively planning to allow a conscious person to die by denying him live-saving treatment, and the President of the High Court admitting this case and seriously considering it. All this against the wishes of that person’s parents and while there is a negligence case against them being heard in the courts. And all this against the background of not one place available in this country, not even in the NRH, where this person, being on a respirator, would have been able to receive the neuro-rehabilitation that he so desperately requires, the treatment that would give him a chance of recovering from his injuries.

Where are the Human Rights lawyers, where is Amnesty International, where is the human rights movement that would make cases like these public, that would make sure that even someone with a severe acquired brain injury receives the treatment and rehabilitation that he has a natural right to?

Is it right, could it be right to allow a conscious person, even if he is only in a minimally conscious state, who cannot decide for himself, to die against the wishes of his family because the organisation looking after him believes it would be “in his best interests” – while this organisation is already being sued for negligence because the brain injury happened when that person was in their care for treatment of another illness?

I mean, …. come on guys! There is a ‘right’, and there is a ‘wrong’! And let’s not confuse the issues.