New case switches spotlight to doctors

Doctors and other health professionals need better training in
understanding health and life issues for disabled people,
disability groups have warned.

It follows news that the courts will soon hear a further case
highlighting failures in the way the NHS cares for disabled people.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights decided that
Portsmouth Hospital Trust should have applied to the High Court
before withdrawing treatment from 17-year-old David Glass, who is
blind and suffers from spastic quadriplegia, epilepsy and learning
difficulties, after he was admitted for a severe respiratory
infection in 1998 (news, page 6, 18 March).

The Disability Rights Commission said it was working with the
British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the
General Medical Council to develop new guidelines for clinicians on
how to involve disabled people and their families more in making
decisions about their care.

Recent research by the DRC showed that many hospital trusts were
unaware of existing guidelines or of how to implement them.

“It wasn’t a very encouraging picture, and at the moment doctors
have the last say on what the treatment should be,” a DRC
spokesperson said.

“The health service probably has a slightly distorted view of
treating disabled people: it doesn’t really understand what it’s
like to live as a disabled person or what their quality of life can

Disability campaigner Jane Campbell said there needed to be much
better training of young doctors so that they had a better
understanding of the social model of disability.

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