The Irish Health Service Executive has agreed to pay €440,000 and has apologized “unreservedly” to a severely intellectually disabled “voiceless” elderly woman who was systematically abused, both physically and mentally, while she was a resident in the HSE’s Aras Attracta facility in Co. Mayo.
The treatment of the woman came to light as a result of an RTE Prime Time Investigates programme in late 2014.
The programme exposed the helpless woman being treated in a “physically violent and undignified manner”, which clearly caused her distress and one of the most disturbing things was the “indifference to that distress”. As well as this, it was claimed that she was deprived of appropriate supports and stimuli.
The woman, aged in her 70’s, has been in HSE care since her birth in an institution and has no known living family.
As a result of the airing of the programme, the woman was made a ward of the court, and was moved to another unit by the HSE in late 2014.
Since making the move, there had been a dramatic improvement in her condition which only served to underline what was going on before.
The woman suffered from a digestive condition which was not diagnosed and treated until after an independent advocate got involved in 2014. It also used to be said the woman liked being placed on the porch when in fact that was a form of punishment, counsel noted.
Experts who have assessed the woman are now delighted with the level of care she is getting but had made suggestions for some improvements, including additional resources and funding so she could go on outings. The HSE had said those would be provided.
The President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, today described the woman’s treatment as “inhuman”.
He commented that while the case made “sad” reading for the woman, it made “shameful” reading for the HSE.
The HSE today admitted liability and the settlement came before Mr. Justice Kelly for approval.
Micheál O Scanaill, for the HSE, said it wished to apologize “unreservedly” to the woman for the manner in which she was treated as was documented in the Prime Time programme of December 2014.
The settlement also includes a €440,000 payment comprising €300,000 for general damages and aggravated damages, €100,000 for loss of disability allowance and €40,000 for the cost of an independent advocate for the woman to monitor her care into the future.
The judge added he considered it was “crucially important” the woman has an independent advocate for the future to police the HSE undertakings as to her care.
If you missed the RTE Prime Time programme on the Aras Attracta care home, you can watch it here.