Gravely ill woman who ran away from home should not be reunited with family, court rules

Court of Protection rules 64-year-old's decision must be respected, 'terribly sad though that be'

The Court of Protection has ruled that a 64-year-old woman who disappeared for months after she ran away with a neighbour and subsequently suffered a massive stroke should not be reunited with her family despite their fervent wish to see her again.

The extraordinary case, which the judge described as “very tragic and distressing”, forced the court to grapple with the thorny question of whether the woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – genuinely stated that she wanted nothing to do with certain family members before she became gravely ill.

Judge Martin Cardinal, a specialist in mental health issues, said the case had given him “a great deal of anxious thought” and centred on “a typical extended working class London family where everyone lived close to each other and were in and out of each other’s homes a great deal.”

In June 2008 the family was torn apart when the woman left her husband of 45 years and ran off with a neighbour to the West Midlands without leaving any note or explanation. The family spent months trying to track her down. They finally found her and discovered that she was in a nursing home after suffering a cerebral aneurism that had left her incapacitated and needing 24-hour care.

However when the family tried to visit her in the home they were escorted off the premises by police because the home insisted they had been told the woman made it clear she wanted to break off contact with family members before she fell ill. With the woman now unable to express a clear wish, it was left up to the Court of Protection – which deals with people who have lost capacity to make vital decisions – to decide whether it would be in her best interests for family contact to resume.

During a two day trial the judge heard from tearful family members – including two daughters and the woman’s husband - who described how her departure had left them devastated and perplexed. They were convinced that a “letter of wishes” and a will which the woman wrote were in fact written by her new lover. An American forensic expert who specialises in using computer analyses to deduce the authorship of written pieces of work testified that he was “99.99 per cent” certain that the letter of wishes was written by the woman’s lover.

However the judge ruled that, even if the authorship of the letter of wishes was disputed, there was compelling evidence to show that the woman had not been coerced and had in fact made clear that she no longer wanted any contact with her family other than her brother. During the trial it also emerged that the woman had gone to the police after leaving London to complain that she had been the victim of physical and emotional abuse from her husband and many other family members. The family denied these accusations in court.

The woman’s new lover, the judge said, had also visited the woman in the home every day since the stroke, even though the likelihood of her recovering was slim. He was neither “a dominating or bullying man” and “plainly had no financial motive in running away” with the woman because she had no assets.

Judge Cardinal said he had sympathy with the family and added that he did not believe they posed any physical threat to the woman now. But the court nonetheless had to respect the woman’s decision – taken at a time when she was capacitous – to run away from her family without giving an explanation.

“The actions may be unkind, ungrateful and even mean spirited,” he said in his judgement. “These actions may be inexplicable. But they were an adult’s decisions. However justified or unjustified, and not lacking in logical thinking.”

The family, he added, would be kept informed of the woman’s medical condition but he ruled against restoring contact, even on a temporary trial basis.

“Not without very careful thought I take the view that I cannot direct that contact be immediately restored to husband or family and particularly [the woman’s eldest daughter]…terribly sad though that be,” he concluded. “It appears that [she] took the decision that her future was with [her lover] and she wished a break with the past. Accordingly I declare at present it is in the best interests of [the woman] not to see her family. I say this with great regret and I hope not without sympathy for the family from whom she was estranged but this is not the time to experiment with contact. Unless things change, her wishes must be respected and the position remains as it is.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game