Human rights challenge for woman forced to sleep in wheelchair

A human rights challenge was launched earlier in the month on behalf of a 51-year-old disabled woman who had been forced to sleep in her wheelchair for the past year because her healthcare trust refused to sanction her carers to lift her into bed.
Milton Keynes Primary Care Trust refused to permit its staff to lift Lorraine Wolstenholme, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who uses a wheelchair, on the grounds that it was unreasonable to expose its staff to the risk of injury. “This is an outrageous situation and no one should be treated in this way,” said Richard Stein, a partner at Leigh Day & Co who represents Wolstenholme. “The actions of the trust defy common sense. Mrs Wolstenholme only weighs eight-and-a-half stone. Many businesses would grind to a halt in this country if workers did not lift objects of a similar weight and yet when we are talking about lifting people, enabling them to live their lives properly and with dignity, suddenly lifting such weight is too dangerous.”
Stein is seeking to have the decision overturned by the High Court on the grounds that the trust is acting unlawfully by attaching too much weight to the interests of carers and not enough to the rights of the disabled person.
Mr Justice Ouseley told the High Court: “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.”
According to Leigh Day, there were two grounds to the legal action: first, that the trust misdirected themselves to the scope of the Health and Safety Obligations and in particular misinterpreted the manual handling regulations; and second, that the trust’s conduct amounted to a breach under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and effectively deprived her of her independence, mobility and dignity.