tragedy strikes

This is Local London, 18th September 2009
South west London's mental health trust under fire for its 'human rights' policy,

The brother of a man with schizophrenia who died in a squalid Clapham flat criticised the care workers who feared moving him would violate his human rights.
Mayan Coomeraswamy was found dead on January 9 this year in a filthy, unheated flat deemed barely fit for human habitation, an inquest heard yesterday. His brother, Anthony Coombe, accused the authorities of failing in their duty of care after a post mortem examination showed signs of hypothermia.
The case has triggered a review into how local mental health services handle vulnerable patients choosing to live in such conditions.
Mr Coombe said: "My brother has been a mentally ill person for 37 years.
For the last four years we know the state of his residence where he was living was squalor.
I think even an animal couldn't have lived in that." He added: "If my brother died for one [reason], I hope we can learn by this."

Mr Coomeraswamy lived in Thurleigh Court, Nightingale Lane, under the supervision of South West London and St George's Mental Health Trust.
For years the landlord, Gary Burns, wanted to clean the flat up - but the trust refused to forcibly move the patient to allow work to take place.
The boiler was broken, the bathroom ceiling had collapsed, the walls were damp and a thick coat of dirt covered every surface.

Showing photographs of the scene to the court, Dr Paul Knapman, the coroner, said:
"This is barely fit for human habitation.
He added: "Photograph five shows an absolutely filthy kitchen with stuff all over the place.
One thing it doesn't show is rodents or insects, if there were any. I can't believe there wouldn't be."

The patient, who was visited regularly by a psychiatric nurse,
was found dead, partially clothed, in his bedroom
after police were told he would not answer the door.
A post mortem examination found ulcerations in his stomach,
often found in those suffering from hypothermia.

Speaking in court, Dr RA, director of social work at Tooting's Springfield Hospital, said human rights had to be considered before removing patients from their homes.
She said people were only sectioned when they refused to comply with treatment, but this was never the case with Mr Coomeraswamy.
She added: " She highlighted that workers were always aware of the patient's right to choose their living circumstances, citing the Mental Capacity Act and the Human Rights Act.

But Dr Knapman called for a review into the trust's interpretation of these laws.
He said: "You will know that month after month in this court we hear about elderly people
often dead for weeks and weeks -sometimes months - living in absolutely appalling circumstances. He added:
"The pendulum may have swung too far."



Anyone who is in the UK for any reason has fundamental human rights which government and public authorities are legally obliged to respect.
These became law as part of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Your human rights are:

the right to life

freedom from slavery and forced labour

freedom from torture and degrading treatment

the right to a fair trial

the right to liberty

the right not to be punished for something that wasn't a crime when you did it

the right to respect for private and family life

freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs

freedom of expression

freedom of assembly and association

the right to marry and to start a family

the right not to be discriminated against in respect of these rights and freedoms

the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property

the right to an education

the right to participate in free elections

the right not to be subjected to the death penalty

If any of these rights and freedoms are breached, you have a right to an effective solution in law, even if the breach was by someone in authority, such as, for example, a police officer.

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