Woman alleged not to have left bedroom in nearly two years can be transferred to hospital with use of reasonable force, court rules

Judge allows use of restraint and sedation to move young woman, who has allegedly been confined to lower bunk bed

The High Court has made orders allowing the use of reasonable force, restraint and sedation to facilitate transferring to hospital a young woman who has allegedly not left her bedroom in nearly two years.

The court was told the woman has been confined to the lower bed of a bunk bed in a room with a “very pungent odour”.

A court-appointed guardian said she visited the woman twice and was dismayed by the “very grave” situation. The woman, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and a joint condition, communicated with her mother through mobile text messages and engaged with the guardian through finger gestures, the guardian said.

She has not independently used bathroom facilities in more than two years, the court heard. She was lying on the same soiled sheets and wearing the same pyjamas during the guardian’s visits to the home 20 days apart.


The guardian said she raised with the mother the possibility of admitting the woman to hospital for medical assessment. This, she said, caused the mother to become tearful, saying she might as well say goodbye to her daughter as admission would result in “certain death”.

The mother appears to hold an irrational dislike and suspicion of all health and social care professionals, the guardian added. Both she and her daughter believe specialist surgery overseas is required for the daughter’s condition.

The guardian was supportive of the Health Service Executive’s application for various orders to facilitate the woman’s transfer to hospital for a full medical and psychological assessment.

Mr Justice Mark Heslin this week granted orders including allowing an assisted admissions team to help with the transfer and the use of reasonable force or restraint, including sedating the woman if necessary. Gardaí can also be called in to assist, and the woman can be detained at the hospital to allow a medical examination to be conducted.

He noted a medical consultant’s view that the woman is of unsound mind.

The judge was satisfied, notwithstanding the contrary views of the woman’s mother, that the orders were required and that the court’s wardship jurisdiction was engaged. Granting these “safety and welfare orders” is in the woman’s best interests, he said.

The judge said a previous unsuccessful attempt at a transfer with experienced ambulance staff was “extremely stressful” for the woman.

She lives a “very diminished life”, despite her family’s efforts, and appears to be very socially isolated, he said. The love of a parent for a child is not in doubt nor is that an issue in this case, he added.

There is “not a scintilla of evidence before the court” to support the mother’s attribution of her daughter’s deterioration to a previous hospital admission, the judge said.

He made the orders sought and scheduled for the case to be reviewed in three months.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter