5 Unnecessary deaths
A sense of urgency has been lent to the efforts of addressing the healthcare needs of people with learning disabilities by some high-profile cases where young people have needlessly died.
In the next activity you will explore the case of Richard Handley, who had Down’s syndrome and suffered lifelong constipation.
Activity 4 The case of Richard Handley
Read the article from The Guardian at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.
- How might ‘reasonable adjustments’ have made a difference to Richard?
- What else would need to happen to prevent these ‘gross failings’?
The enormity of what happened to Richard makes it hard to easily unpick how it could have been prevented. However, one of the main issues picked up by the series of reports on healthcare was that no single person has an overview of the complex systems and sets of relationships involved in the care of a person with complex impairments and health needs. Families may try to do this, but they lack the knowledge of the interlocking systems, and, crucially, the authority to command action from healthcare professionals.
Families can be immensely helpful. They can sit with the patient, interpret their communication, explain resistance to blood tests or other interventions, and just be a reassurance in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes their help is welcomed, but sometimes it can be branded as ‘interfering’, as Sheila put it in the scenario in Section 2 of this session.
Health passports can be useful – as long as they are up to date and everyone knows about them and remembers to consult them.