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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Woman 'forced to sleep in wheelchair'
Lorraine Wolstenholme
Mrs Wolstenholme does not want to be bedridden
A disabled woman has had to sleep in her wheelchair for a year because her local health trust would not allow staff to lift her into bed, a court has heard.

Lorraine Wolstenholme, 50, of Monkston, Milton Keynes, has multiple sclerosis and is unable to get in or out of bed by herself.

The High Court heard on Monday that nurses who had been helping her out of bed were banned from doing so by Milton Keynes Primary Care Trust in June last year because of the perceived dangers of lifting her, though she weighs only eight-and-a-half stone.

Mrs Wolstenholme has pressure sores on her body from sleeping awkwardly in the wheelchair.

I do find it quite extraordinary that no means can be devised for lifting an eight-and-a-half stone woman once a day safely
Mr Justice Ouseley

Her lawyers are asking a judge to allow her to seek judicial review of the allegedly "unlawful" stance of the trust.

Commenting, Mr Justice Ouseley said: "I do find it quite extraordinary that no means can be devised for lifting an eight-and-a-half stone woman once a day safely, or reasonably safely."

Mrs Wolstenholme's 27-year-old daughter Karen has taken a year off work to look after her and can manage to get her mother out of bed into the wheelchair, but she cannot get her back into bed.

Her mother has decided she would rather remain in the wheelchair in her specially-adapted council bungalow than be bedridden - probably in hospital - for the rest of her life.

Her counsel, Murray Hunt, told the court: "Too much weight was attached to the interests of the carers and not enough to those of the disabled person."

Spasms

However, the judge ruled that it would be "too much" at the current time to order staff to lift Mrs Wolstenholme out of bed, or risk going to prison for contempt of court.

This is an unusual and very distressing situation
Mike O'Donovan, Multiple Sclerosis Society
Ms Wolstenholme was diagnosed with MS in 1995, and suffers from involuntary spasms.

She has refused "invasive" treatment to control the spasms because she fears the effects of the medication to relax her muscles.

Jeremy Hyam, for the trust, told the judge the problem was not Mrs Wolstenholme's weight but "the very serious spasms" from which she suffered as a result of her condition.

He said "none of the employees of the defendant is willing to be a hero or heroine" by attempting lifts of a highly dangerous nature.

Mike O'Donovan, chief executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said: "This is an unusual and very distressing situation.

"The needs and feelings of people severely affected by MS can be complex and not always easy to appreciate.

"With co-operation from both patients and carers, however, it is almost always possible to find a safe and acceptable solution to problems of lifting people severely affected by MS."

He added: "We welcome the judge's call for an expert report and very much hope the difficulties which have led to this unfortunate case can be quickly and satisfactorily resolved."

The judge ordered that the case should be adjourned until 13 October when the trust authorities would have received a fresh report, due to be published in two weeks, and further assessed the dangers.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"This case raises important questions about healthcare, safety and dignity"



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