Former ballerina loses night carer appeal
6 July 2011
by Luke Thomas
A former ballerina who was disabled by a stroke has lost a Supreme Court appeal for an overnight carer to help her use the bathroom.
Elaine McDonald, once a leading light of Scottish ballet and recipient of an OBE, said she needed the carer for “dignity and independence”, but her appeal was dismissed by a majority ruling.
Mrs McDonald had originally lost her case at the Court of Appeal in London last October.
She suffered her stroke in 1999 and ever since has required the use of a wheelchair outdoors. She argued that the care package provided to her by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was lacking the essential ingredient of a carer at night to help her use a commode.
Ms McDonald had said at a previous hearing that she was not incontinent but had to use incontinence pads, which she considered an “affront to her dignity”.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, which took the case to court, branded the ruling "shameful".
Meanwhile John Wadham from the Equality and Human Right Commission said: “We are disappointed with today's ruling which is a significant setback for people who receive care in their home.”
"Ms McDonald is not incontinent. However, this judgment means she will be treated as such.
"Local authorities will now have greater discretion in deciding how to meet a person's home care needs and will find it easier to justify withdrawing care.
"This means that older people's human rights to privacy, autonomy and dignity will often be put at serious risk.
"The court has missed a significant opportunity to interpret the law to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.
"The Commission's inquiry into care in the home has already highlighted some of the problems with the current system of home care.
"This judgment will only fuel those problems."