Suicide fears spark care home eviction threat

A Sky News investigation has discovered elderly nursing home residents who want to end their own lives have been threatened with eviction over concerns about the law on assisted suicide.

In one case, a severely disabled pensioner was told he would have to leave his nursing home on Tyneside despite needing 24-hour care.

In another case, a family that wants to remain anonymous is fighting to keep an elderly relative in a nursing home after she was threatened with eviction for collecting pills to use as an overdose.

Campaigner Debbie Purdy, who won a House of Lords appeal to get clarification on prosecutions for assisting a suicide, said Sky’s investigation shows the law is out of date and should be changed.

She said: “Our politicians need to stop digging their heads in the sand and understand that this is happening.

“The very last thing any patient who is considering ending their lives needs is to have the curtains drawn and to be told not to discuss it with anybody.”

The treatment of 76-year-old Douglas Sinclair is revealed in records of a social services meeting at the Stapleton House Nursing Home in Jarrow in January.

Southern Cross Healthcare denied wanting Mr Sinclair to leave one of its homes

Mr Sinclair, who suffered from multiple system atrophy, told the meeting: “My condition is terminal … my senses are deteriorating rapidly … I want it over, sooner than later.”

The home’s manager, Carole Craig Gilby, said her employer, Southern Cross Healthcare, “did not wish to be seen to be offering any assistance whatsoever” and that “legal advice … was to issue the standard 30-days notice to leave”.

Ms Craig Gilby also told the meeting an inspector from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the official regulator of nursing homes, “supported the organisation’s decision”.

The CQC denies any such advice would have been given.

Mr Sinclair was able to remain at Stapleton House following the intervention of a social services manager who insisted that his plans to die should be viewed as “theoretical”.

He took his own life in Switzerland in July.

Two friends who supported him are on police bail, waiting to hear if they will be prosecuted for assisting a suicide.

In a statement, Southern Cross Healthcare denied wanting Mr Sinclair to leave.

“If this was implied, or understood, by any parties taking part in the confidential conversations regarding this matter, then this is regrettable,” it said.