Cataract procedure allows non-verbal woman to communicate with her eyes
Judge welcomes rare ‘good news story’ in case of disabled woman
Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
An elderly disabled non-verbal woman who uses her eyes to communicate now has a “good life” following a successful court-sanctioned cataract procedure, her sister has told the High Court.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who was also was told on Tuesday the sister considers the woman is receiving excellent care at a HSE residential unit previously subject of investigation and controversy, said it was a rare “good news story”.
The sister had strongly supported the HSE’s application for the eye surgery, saying she did not want her sibling “to live in a dark world”. The woman was waiting three years for the surgery but, while offered it twice previously, could not take it up for health reasons. A further appointment was scheduled after her physical condition improved and she had the surgery last month after the court sanctioned it in November.
The case was before the judge on Tuesday for a follow-up report.
The woman has been in the care of the HSE since she was aged 10, has a range of disabilities and mainly uses her hands and eyes to communicate. The HSE’s application for orders permitting the surgery was made in the context of intended wardship proceedings, taken with a view to vindicating the woman’s rights arising from alleged earlier mistreatment of her in the residential unit. A decision on whether the woman should be taken into wardship will be made on a later date. The woman’s sister attended the November hearing to strongly support the surgery.
Although the sister could not attend Tuesday’s hearing because of a long-awaited hospital appointment, Katherine Kelleher, solicitor for the HSE, said she had sent an email thanking all involved.
Mr Justice Kelly said the email was “very generous”, extending plaudits to all involved in the woman’s care, and describing the surgery as having made an enormous difference to the woman’s life. “It’s a good news story, we don’t have many of them here,” he remarked. The sister said the cataract procedure had been a huge success and the woman’s quality of life had improved immeasurably because she can see her family members and used her eyes to communicate needs, including for food, choice of clothing and Christmas decorations.
The sister said the woman now has a “good life” because of the improvement in her sight and described the woman’s care as excellent, attributing that to the good care being provided by staff in the residential unit.
Counsel representing an advocate for the woman said she had engaged well with the advocate and, when asked how her eyes were, had “smiled and nodded”.
Arising from the alleged earlier mistreatment, the advocate is considering how her rights should best be vindicated, counsel said.
Consideration was being given to briefing senior counsel and the advocate wanted disclosure of the woman’s records. Mr Justice Kelly said there was no issue about disclosure being permitted but he would defer that pending finalisation of the wardship application.