Dying cancer patient chained to bed

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The Independent Online
An inquiry has been ordered into why a dying cancer patient was chained to his hospice bed by prison officers despite pleas from his mother and doctors.

Geoffrey Thomas, 25, who was awaiting trial for burglary, was only unshackled three hours before he died of stomach cancer.

One of his ankles had been chained to the bed, but the shackle was transferred to his wrist after his ankle became swollen. He had been guarded at the cancer hospice, near Cardiff, by two prison officers but he was too sick to walk. The Prison Service said last night that it was setting up an inquiry into the use of restraints on prisoners. This follows a series of cases involving handcuffed women being taken to hospital to give birth and for breast cancer treatment. The Minister for Prisons, Ann Widdecombe, said she very much regretted the distress caused.

Mr Thomas's mother, Marina Davies, said: "He should have been allowed to die with dignity. He couldn't even walk, let alone escape."

She added: "I begged them to take the handcuffs and chain off but they wouldn't listen. The guards wouldn't even listen to the doctors. It is an inhuman way to treat a man who is dying. There is no way in the world he could escape. My son was dying in front of our very eyes."

Mr Thomas was arrested in October accused of stealing a video recorder, radio and a telephone from a house in his home town of Caerphilly, South Wales, and remanded in custody.

He was taken ill on 23 December and admitted to the city's University Hospital of Wales where the final stages of stomach cancer were diagnosed. He was transferred to the Marie Curie cancer hospice at Holme Tower, Penarth, on New Year's Day.

Despite his rapidly deteriorating condition and repeated requests from doctors for him to be unshackled, he was kept manacled. Last Friday a bail application was made in the morning. The chains were taken off at 11am on grounds of compassion and he died at 2.45pm.

Professor Ilora Finlay, Holme Tower's medical director, yesterday criticised the attitude of the Prison Service. She said: "I think it's desperately sad ... Mr Thomas couldn't have run away anywhere. He needed help to sit up in bed."

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