• Dangerous freedoms 13 March 2017 | View comments

  • 13th March 2017 | By David Jolley

    Headlines in the Manchester Evening News at the beginning of this week told us that an 89 year old man had been arrested for killing two middle aged ladies. He was driving his car in the vicinity of Withington Community Hospital. Both he and the women had been attending the hospital for reasons not immediately known.

    My granddad was in his nineties when he drove gently into the back of a bus at the traffic lights in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton. No damage done to persons, nor to vehicles but he never took the car out again. It was moved to live with Uncle George for safe keeping.

    Friday at our regular seminar we were drawn to consider the case of a gentleman who is quite changed by dementia. Frailty means that he does not go out alone but he does enjoy shooting squirrels in his back garden. His airgun does not require a licence but clearly has potential hazards. There is the wider issue of licences for guns when individuals are known to have a mental disorder, be that a progressive dementia or a recurring or persistent disorder of mood or psychosis. Inevitably this brought Donald Trump into our discussion for he has recently overturned a law which required careful checks on the abilities of gun owners who have a history of mental disorder www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/gun-control-congress-social-security-mental-disorders

    He will no doubt argue that this move is to destigmatise the mentally ill and to remove government chains from citizens. The loss of life by shooting in the USA is enormous compared with the UK and most deaths are not caused by people who are mentally ill, but in both countries there are incidents etched on the public memory where mental illness has contributed to tragedies of this nature.

    And then by Saturday we discovered that an older neighbour has spent a night trapped in her bath despite clear instructions and her agreement not to attempt a bath unless there was someone in the house with her. Her home, her life, but this is reckless. She survives but rather the worse for the experience.

    The statistics tell us that older drivers are mostly extremely safe and certainly less of a hazard to themselves and others than young men. It would be very reasonable to prohibit driving until individuals are 21 years or older. Certainly more reasonable than banning drivers who are aged over 80 or even over 90. But those deaths at Withington hospital are a tragedy for the driver, his family and for the women he killed and their families. It must be possible that his lase was due to pathology which might have been identified and all this might have been avoided.

    Should I plan to stop driving at 80, or 85, or 90?

    Surely the presence of dementia of moderate degree should be sufficient reason for individuals to lose their gun licence, here or anywhere else in the world.

    Now baths are something else.‚Äč

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