Dementia and Human Rights – Part 3
We are getting through the rights from the Human Rights Convention and we are up to Article 7, so the next one in order is Article 8!
Article 8 – Right to Respect for Private and Family Life. This is potentially quite important right for people with dementia. As I’ve said already and will no doubt repeat, people with dementia are still people and as such entitled to be treated with dignity and respect as we all are.
Private and Family Life might mean something different from what it used to be for someone with dementia, but just because their life has changed from what it used to be does not invalidate their right to it. Private and Family life is about relationships, including sexual relationships. But it is also about relationships with other family members other than spouse or life partner – or for that matter a one night stand, whether they are the same sex or opposite sex. As people, if we can do it, someone with dementia can do it, so even though the pub car park may not be everyone’s choice, as long as it is between consenting adults & there is no public indecency or trespass issues or no other legal issues, then if it would be fine for someone without dementia, then its fine for someone with dementia. People with dementia are allowed to have sex, subject to them and their sex partner/s consenting to it.
There is a potential issue with consent. Consent needs to be informed and there are a number of issues that have to be considered around sex. Firstly there is the act of sex itself, as well as issues around pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the relationships emotionally and wider family consequences. To consent to sex means potentially having some understanding around these broader issues too, not just the physical act of sex alone. There have been a number of Court of Protection cases around these kinds of issues, where someone might have the ability to consent to sex, but not understand the consequential pregnancy or the upset that the changing of a friendship to a sexual relationship does to the carers / wider family.
Family life is also about non sexual family relationships. Families often don’t get on and that lack of historic harmony may or may not continue, sometimes the discovery of something like dementia can bring a broken family back together, but not always. So if the person with dementia doesn’t want to see their family then they are allowed to have that view and to have it respected. But more commonly they have good relations and they are allowed to have those respected. Most families have routines and special events that are important to them and these should be respected.
We do not live in a risk free world; if we did there would be no need for A&E departments. Sometimes doing some of the things we like does involve risk, what about driving or smoking or drinking alcohol? To stop someone with dementia taking any risk whatsoever is as much an abuse of their human rights as to let them take too much of a risk. Risk is a balancing act and as discussed in the very first of these blogs, the one of paramount importance is the Right to Life. If we as people without dementia can choose to drink, smoke and/or drive, then why can’t someone with dementia, subject to them being able to do so?
Private life is about the things that you do on your own, it is not just about sex. It’s about reading a book in bed, wearing a skirt if you’re a lady or a tie if you’re a gentleman. There are lots of things that we choose to do and someone with dementia is entitled to have these choices as well.