Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability responds to BBC Coverage

Controversial programme about Locked-in Syndrome prompts alternative view from local hospital

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Between Life and Death aired on BBC1 last week, and followed the stories of three patients who had acquired serious brain injuries in road accidents and were fighting for survival. Much of the debate focused on whether the patients should have been allowed to die following their accidents.

Following the programme, the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability on West Hill responded with a letter to this website, offering an alternative view.

The hospital points out that while it recognises the truly awful situation that the patients and their families faced, at times the programme portrayed their situations as being void of all hope. At the RHN, they treat many people who have Locked-in Syndrome following an acquired brain injury or degenerative condition, and in their experience such patients can lead meaningful lives and can make progress with the wide range of rehabilitation on offer. Aqua-therapy, speech therapy, music therapy and physiotherapy are just a few of the options available.

Gary Derwent Assistive Technology Manager Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability states, "Following the recent press coverage after the BBC1 documentary Between Life and Death this week I would like to pay tribute to those of our patients and residents who, like Richard Rudd, are living with Locked-in Syndrome (LIS).

"As Assistive Technology Manager at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in Putney, I feel for Richard Rudd and his family. While many might believe that they would prefer to die than live with the condition, just as his father suggested, many people with this rare condition in fact feel optimistic ­ despite the unlikely chances of a full recovery.

"Various studies have shown that quality of life for those with LIS is far better than many would think. Evidence suggests that despite their impairments, a significant number of these patients maintain a good quality of life that seems unrelated to their physical state and often akin to healthy individuals of the same age.

"Here at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN), we have expertise across a wide range of clinical services supported by a multitude of therapies, assistive technology solutions and recreation and leisure opportunities which provide choice, control and dignity and contribute to an individual pathway for people with neurological impairment such as Locked-in Syndrome.

"I am particularly involved in Compass, the RHN¹s Electronic Assistive Technology (EAT) service, which provides assessment and provision of EAT equipment. The team has seen many Locked-in patients and has enabled them to communicate and make life choices in a number of different ways.

"Perhaps the best evidence is the words of a Locked-in patient who recently left the RHN after 18 months intensive therapy - using eye gaze technology, a method of communication that the Compass team provided for her.

"I feel very motivated thanks to the enthusiasm here at the RHN. They have shown me how much I can improve. I have faith and big plans for the future."

For more examples of the work done by the RHN go to:

You can still view the programme on BBC iPlayer at the following link:

July 19, 2010