When it comes to vulnerable people who are unable to make important decisions for themselves, family judges focus on just one thing – their best interests. In a striking case on point, the High Court ruled that it would not serve the welfare of an elderly dementia sufferer to be visited in her care home by her troubled adult daughter.
The mother, in her 70s, lacked the mental capacity required to express a meaningful view regarding contact with her daughter, whom she had not seen for about nine years. The daughter launched proceedings, seeking contact rights and disclosure of the address of the care home where her mother was resident. Her application was, however, adamantly opposed by her brother.
Due to traumatic experiences in early life, the middle-aged daughter had endured severe mental health difficulties and chronic alcoholism. After beating her addiction, however, she had for some time been abstinent from alcohol. She asserted that her brother had deliberately thwarted her attempts to visit their mother, who, if she were in a position to make a choice, would wish to see her.
For his part, the brother contended that the daughter had become a stranger to their mother and that contact between them would only cause the latter emotional harm and confusion. He argued that the daughter’s wish for contact was entirely self-serving and that it would benefit only herself and her conscience.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that, before losing capacity, the mother had expressed a view that she did not wish to see her daughter. That was unsurprising in that medical records indicated that the daughter had in the past assaulted her. Prior to her moving into residential care, the brother had provided the mother with devoted care and continued to visit her three times a week.
Were the mother able to make decisions for herself, the Court was not convinced that she would choose to see her daughter again. Dismissing the application, the Court found that permitting resumption of contact between mother and daughter would not be in the former’s best interests.