Stephen Hawking’s former nurse struck off

One of the nurses who provided care to the late Professor Stephen Hawking has been struck off the nursing register by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (“NMC”).  Patricia Dowdy worked for Professor Hawking from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2013 to 2016.  An interim suspension had been put in place in 2016. 

Professor Hawking was a world renowned physicist who died in March 2018 at the age of 76.  He developed motor neurone disease aged 21.  In 1985 he underwent an emergency tracheotomy which meant he required 24 hour care.  At the time the NHS was ready to move him into a care home, but his first wife Jane Hawking was determined he would live at home with round the clock care from qualified nurses.  The cost of the nursing care was funded privately. 

The NMC fitness to practise panel held its hearings against Patricia Dowdy in private in order to protect the interests of the different parties involved.  The NMC has confirmed that the decision to strike Patricia Dowdy off the register was based on findings regarding financial misconduct, dishonesty, not providing appropriate care, failing to cooperate with the NMC and not having the correct qualifications. 

This recent decision was not the first time nurses had been accused of mistreating Professor Hawking. He had married one of his nurses Elaine Mason in 1995.  In 2004 Professor Hawking was taken to hospital on a number of occasions with injuries including a broken wrist and facial cuts.  Elaine Mason was accused by ten other nurses who worked for Professor Hawking of abusing him.  No further action was taken at the time after Professor Hawking and Elaine Mason denied these allegations. 

Sadly this highlights the fact that abuse by care professionals can occur to anyone and in any context. 

Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM

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