• A week of partings 08 June 2016 | View comments

  • 29th May 2016 | By David Jolley

    Wednesday saw the death of a very frail relative who was in her 90s. After a full and productive life she had become less able and not coped living alone. Her final 6 years were spent in a Methodist Home for the Aged. Her family saw her to be happier in those years than they had seen at any time through her previous adult life. The company, the routines, the care – all complemented her own fading competences so that she could be herself – mischievous, flirtatious, opinionated, superior but generous and loyal. She valued the staff as friends and equals as in her earlier professional roles.

    The ending took ten days but was well organised and supported by the end of life team working with responsive GPs, the staff and family. It’s OK.

    The same day we learned of the sudden death by stroke of a colleague – of retirement age but still working on a part time basis. Same age as me – we were postgraduate trainees together and continued in similar work. He had experienced episodes of ill-health and had some ongoing pathology but was conscientious in healthy eating and exercises. The sudden death is a shock – it has to be that it is OK.

    The Law Commission is making steady and cultured progress in its task to suggest how to rewrite the legislation concerning people who lack mental capacity and are in 24 hour care. The present system has been exposed to be absurd, extortionately expensive and causes distress to individuals and families.

    Our 90 year old relative became subject to DoLS – amongst other things we were advised, in a formal note, that when she died her doctor could not sign a death certificate and her body would be possessed by the Coroner and would rest in a hospital mortuary until he had opportunity to conduct an inquest. Ludicrously but happily the DoLS became time-expired and was not renewed – so her peaceful, natural death in a place where she had found love was not spoiled.

    In their interim statement published this week, it is clear that the Law Commission is addressing the Coroner’s issue with what will be good effect. There remains mystery around the remaining complex considerations

    www.lawcom.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/mental_capacity_interim_statement.pdf

    We look forward to the final thoughts – and hope they will include reference to legislation of this area in other European countries

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