Daughter no longer seeking mother’s move from nursing home over Covid-19 risk

Judge hears woman, a ward of court in her 90s, has tested positive for disease

A woman is not pursuing her High Court bid to have her mother moved out of a nursing home over Covid-19 concerns because her mother has just tested positive for the virus.

The woman's mother, a ward of court aged in her nineties, is understood to be doing reasonably well despite the positive test and Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said he hoped she would come through her current ill health.

The daughter initiated her application last Monday when the result of a Covid-19 test carried out on her mother the previous Friday was awaited.

Her concerns included her mother’s room was on a corridor with other rooms housing some Covid-19 positive residents and all rooms on the corridor were being serviced by the same healthcare staff.


Mr Justice Humphreys had adjourned the matter to Thursday when he was told the test result has been received and was positive.

He was also told the HSE had engaged a consultant geriatrician, Dr Dermot Power, to assess the woman's status and treatment on Thursday and his report would be made available that evening to the parties, including Patricia Hickey, the general solicitor for wards of court.

Ms Hickey was previously appointed as the committee representing the woman’s interests because the woman’s adult children disagreed on the nature of her care.

Nuala Jackson SC, for the daughter, said a level of agreement had been reached and she wanted certain court directions, including concerning the nursing home’s policy on communications with residents and their relatives of clinical decisions and test results.

Do Not Resuscitate

The test result was not directly communicated to the daughter by the nursing home, counsel said.

Counsel also raised issues about how a Do Not Resuscitate notice was previously put in place for the mother. While other siblings of her client seemed to have consent to that, her client was not aware of this “very distressing news” until this week.

The matter was adjourned to Thursday afternoon when Donal McGuinness BL, for the HSE, said Dr Power’s view was the DNR notice was in the woman’s best interests and was an appropriate clinical decision.

Dr Power had said, even without Covid-19, the woman’s conditions are such the DNR notice is appropriate. With Covid-19, he considered the case for resuscitation in the event of cardiac arrest was “even less” because it was more than likely the cause of such arrest would be viral pneumonia which would almost inevitably cause death in any event.

Resuscitation, Dr Power considered, would be unlikely in the circumstances to alter that situation and could cause great and unnecessary pain.

Mr McGuinness said Dr Power has some experience of people taking relatives from nursing homes and had said the challenges unfortunately were such they then seek to have the relative readmitted.

Counsel and the judge thanked Dr Power, described as having a very depleted team and very busy, for taking time to visit the woman.

Natalie McDonnell, for the general solicitor, accepted the DNR, which was made before the woman was made a ward of court, should remain in place while Ms Jackson said her side wished to see Dr Power’s report but was not seeking an alternative order at this point.

Mr Justice Humphreys directed the DNR remain in place unless an alternative view is taken by the woman’s treating medical team or pending any application brought on medical evidence. He also directed the nursing home to provide its general communications policy, and how that was applied in this case, to the parties.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times