Coronavirus: Man with brain injury may not leave nursing home for visits

Court told ward of court would be at serious risk were he to contract illness

A brain injured man has been restrained by High Court order from leaving his nursing home for visits to his elderly mother or others due to concerns he does not understand the dangers posed to him and others by the coronavirus.

After the nursing home imposed visiting restrictions on March 6th, the man, a ward of court aged in his 50s, who would be at serious risk were he to contract the illness, made four visits to his mother and his home area.

While he said on March 20th he would make no further visits, the nursing home is concerned it cannot enforce this and that he had told a solicitor he saw no basis for varying his visiting routine.

In the circumstances, David Leahy, for the HSE, asked for orders preventing the man receiving or making visits unless those are permitted by the nursing home. The orders include permitting gardaí to search for, arrest and return the man to the nursing home if he leaves.


Mr Justice Denis McDonald said, in light of the pandemic, the court was constrained to intervene and make orders of the sort “it would generally not be prepared to make”.

He made orders effectively permitting the nursing home detain the man for six months on condition that the situation be reviewed at three months or earlier if there is any change concerning the risk posed by the virus.

In seeking the orders, Mr Leahy said this was “very much an application for our times”.

The man was made a ward of court after suffering brain injuries in a road traffic accident decades ago. He had lived with his mother but has been in the nursing home for around two years, having gone there on a respite basis.

He wants to go home but there are concerns about his capacity to live independently, counsel said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times