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More MS news articles for September 2003

Woman forced to sleep in chair for a year

9 Sep 2003, 18.45PM BST

A multiple sclerosis sufferer has taken the NHS to court after being forced to sleep in a wheelchair for a year.

Nurses are not allowed to lift Lorraine Wolstenholme, who weighs eight-and-a-half stone (120lb or 55kg), into bed in case they hurt themselves.

But she suffers from involuntary muscle spasms and the Milton Keynes NHS Primary Care Trust says these could pose a high risk of injury to its staff if they attempt to lift her.

The trust said three nurses have already been injured trying.

Her barrister has told the High Court the treatment of Mrs Wolstenholme, 50, is a violation of her human rights. She has pressure sores from sleeping in her chair.

Mrs Wolstenholme is unable to get in or out of bed by herself as a result of her illness.

Her 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.

Mrs Wolstenholme, who enjoys shopping and other activities, 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Her counsel, Murray Hunt, told the court how the nurses who assisted her to get out of bed were withdrawn by the trust in June last year because of the perceived dangers of lifting her.

Mr Hunt said: "Too much weight was attached to the interests of the carers and not enough to those of the disabled person".

Richard Stein, Mrs Wolstenholme's solicitor, said: "This is regulation gone crazy. These carers can't just do this one thing, to lift her from chair to bed."

Ms Wolstenholme was diagnosed with MS in 1995, and suffers from involuntary spasms which the Milton Keynes Primary Care Trust says could pose a high risk of injury to its staff if they attempted to lift her.

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

Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, rejected an application from Mrs Wolstenholme's lawyers to make an interim court order forcing the trust to provide lifters pending the legal challenge.

He 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.

But the judge commented: "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."

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