Book Review: Dementia and the Law
by Tony Harrop–Griffiths and others at Field Court Chambers, published by Jordans
Much as we would like to hide away from it, dementia is becoming one of the key social issues of our time. The reasons are clear – there are already 800,000 people in the United Kingdom living with dementia, many of which are underdiagnosed and according to the Alzheimer’s Society there will be more than 1 million people with dementia by 2021.
As the authors point out in the introduction, the issues that dementia present be they medical, psychological, social, philosophical, ethical and legal – are complex and distinctive.
I believe it is heartening that a set of chambers have thought to engage in the issues of dementia by compiling a broad and thorough book which explores all of the legal issues regarding dementia. The book is rightly endorsed in its forward by High Court Judge, Lucy Theis. The structure is extremely well laid out and combines a clear and authorative expression of the law with guidance on practice and procedure.
With respect to the book itself, it is split into four distinct parts. Section 1 concerned with the diagnosis and assessment of the person who may have dementia (e.g. access and rights to (Personal Information, DOL procedures) and section 2 considers the issues surrounding the provision of care for someone with dementiacontinuing Health Care, Local Authority Care). The third section addresses the property and financial affairs of the person who has dementia (LPAs and Court of Protection applications, funding) and the final section covers remedies available when disputes arise (including complaints about Care homes and Judicial Review).
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The book has 316 pages of commentary and a further 192 pages of statutory materials. With respect to the statutory materials, it is difficult to please everyone but I might have wanted the statutory Code of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in place as well because I think this is very useful to practitioners. I appreciate that this is not technically a statutory material but it is highly relevant to the issues of dementia and would have added more to the book.
I liked the fact that the authors have given prominence to use of mediation and alternative dispute resolution as a mechanism for resolving disputes. As a mediator and someone who believes firmly in the use of mediation, their analysis of the best way to incorporate mediation is sensible. It is quite revealing from the authors’ commentary that in fact the incentives to mediate are still weak and there is an absence of clear structure as to how mediations should be conducted.
I believe some of the legal analysis is really strong such as on deprivation of liberty and why it is important. As the authors recognise the case of Cheshire West and Chester Council v P was unsettled at the time of the book being written, but they show why the issues are important. The authors are able in a succinct analysis to demonstrate how difficult it is to answer the question as to whether someone has been deprived of their liberty. With human rights of the elderly increasingly being promoted by many politicians, this is an issue which will run and run.
Chapter 11 which deals with challenging decisions and making complaints will be of particular use to many lawyers as we are often instructed when problems arise. The authors set out the options not just in England and Wales but also provide a list of websites that may be helpful.
Interestingly this book, markets itself as being of use to not only legal practitioners but also relatives of people and charitable organisations; it may very well be of use to them. However, whilst the book is clear and accessible, these issues are complicated and certainly those members of public dealing with these issues will benefit from legal advisors who understand the issues if it is affordable.
It is my belief that the book suits lawyers who not just specialise in the field but suits those with an introductory knowledge.
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