Westminster seeks insights from autonomy expert

  • Date

    Thu 10 Mar 22

Professor Wayne Martin

Professor Wayne Martin has given evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights on how COVID-19 restrictions have impacted human rights in care homes.

Professor Martin, who was invited to give evidence after submitting written evidence to the Committee as part of its inquiry into Human Rights in Care Settings, was questioned about autonomy and decision-making and the enforcement of human rights.

In his written evidence, co-authored with Dr Margot Kuylen, Professor Martin focused on the use of Do Not Attempt CPR (DNACPR) decisions and restrictive measures in locked-down care homes.

As well as providing evidence supporting Care Quality Commission claims that there was unlawful use of ‘blanket’ DNACPR decisions in some care homes and that in some cases those decisions were made without proper consultation, the written submission reported evidence that DNACPR orders influenced other healthcare decisions outside their intended remit. It also highlights evidence of confusion among professionals about the meaning and legal status of DNACPR decisions.

The written submission contributed to an emerging picture of how existing weaknesses in the care system were exasperated by restrictive COVID-19 measures, leaving some vulnerable residents unlawfully confined to their rooms and unable to see professionals tasked not only with their care but also with protecting their rights.

Appearing before the Committee, which was chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman, Professor Martin was asked about the legal framework for protecting personal autonomy, the particular needs of people who lack capacity to make decisions, how staff in care homes can be better trained, and how data collection could help better protect human rights.

He was also asked how human rights can be better enforced in care homes, how the Human Rights Act applies to those who pay for their own care, and about the role of the Care Quality Commission.

Speaking after giving evidence, Professor Martin said: “It feels to me as if we have arrived at the ‘Opportunity Phase’ of the COVID pandemic. The Committee’s inquiry reflects a now widely shared view that the rights of persons in care need to be more robustly protected.”

Professor Martin, who is Principal Investigator of the Essex Autonomy Project, was part of a three-person interview panel alongside Sanchita Hosali, CEO of the British Institute of Human Rights and Kari Gerstheimer, founder and CEO of Access Social Care.