When is denial of treatment acceptable?

An NHS hospital is refusing to treat a 75 year old for a hip operation, Edward Atkinson, because he is a pro-life campaigner who refused to stop sending graphic anti-abortion material to hospital staff. The Trust argues the NHS Zero Tolerance Policy, a policy to prevent violence and abuse against staff, justifies their actions. This must mean they are classifying the material as a form of severe verbal abuse. The Courts agree with the Trust, sentencing Mr Atkinson to 28 days for sending offensive material to hospital staff.

  • Crataegus

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Recently was in a hospital with an elderly person and lots of elderly and frail there and not one son or daughter or friend with them. Struck me as very wrong.

  • bertie

    I’m very uneasy about this to say the least.

  • missfitz

    I think they were just right. They asked him to stop and he didnt, he sent rude and offensive material to hospital staff, invading their peaceful lives. Just right, you cannot be let get away with this kind of stuff.

  • fartrick

    wouldnt expect you to think anything else missfitz…youre not a very nice person…

  • mark

    This is a strange amalgam of two issues; what is acceptable protest and how much crap should medical staff have to put up with.

    The material of itself isn’t going to be particularly traumatic to trained medical staff. Though many forms of unsolicited mail are restricted or sought to be restricted and we are all meant to be equal..I wouldn’t be happy with unsolicited photos of aborted foetuses with my paper.

    Do we expect medical staff to put up with and assist those that go beyond the norms we’d expect, again and again…? Of course.

    Should we expect them to continue putting up with it for a non-urgent patient who could survive going to the next nearest unit and maybe learning some manners? No. imo

  • Rubicon

    It seems the man is being punished twice for the same offence.

    Zero-tolerance is supposed to protect staff from assault and abuse while conducting their duties. Did this man damage the effectiveness of Trust staff? He upset some sure – but this seems to be political correctness gone mad.

    What next? Will the staff of the Sun be banned treatment for putting bare boobies in the paper that might upset some NHS staff?

    The NHS is there to deliver care – the courts deal with criminal behaviour. The Trust should get on with what the public pay it to do.

  • ecci romani

    ah this an easy one

    the man is a crank and the staff are at risk endof

  • willis

    Fair Deal

    Once again I have to have regard to your awesome powers. Although I am not so sure that the courts acquiessed in the refusal of treatment.


    Is there a codicil of Godwins law regarding the expression “Political Correctness gone mad?”

    He abused staff. It is nothing to do with effectiveness.


    Got it in one. He wants to abuse staff and then have them care for him. To be fair, it is the shadowy people in UK life league I would worry about. I used to get spam from them. I can’t understand what they had to do with Tommy Sheridan.

  • missfitz


    Given that some of your comments scare me, I am actually quite relieved you dont like me! I would not want you in my fan club

    I was a nurse for a very long time and I disagree with Mark, in that hospital staff never become fully de-senisitsed. You still have feelings, and indeed you expect certain insults and can be more upset by ones you dont expect.

    I agree with Ecce on this one, a no brainer. If you want to be treated with courtesy, care and respect, you dont treat the staff with contempt, and disrespect.

  • Rory

    Military medical personnel in combat are expected to render medical aid to captured wounded enemy combatants who had but recently been trying to kill them.

    Many patients who are mentally and emotionally ill heap vitriolic abuse on medical staff attempting to care for them. Such things are taken for granted.

    This man’s behaviour was punished by the courts and has no bearing on his medical condition and need for treatment. He ought to be treated and if necessary the decision of the NHS Trust should be challenged all the way to the highest legislative board available, including the European Human Rights Court as this seems to me clearly to be a human rights issue.

    While having every sympathy with the abused medical workers whataboutery regarding the rights of hospital staff to be free from the kind of abuse Mr Atkinson has been guilty of are unhelpful. That is a separate issue and must be (indeed has been) dealt with separately.

  • Fraggle

    As a health care professional myself, I fully support this decision.

    The right of the hospital staff to security from abuse rank higher than the right of this man to treatment from one particular trust.

    The man is a hypocrit since he has a problem with the hospital performing certain procedures, leading him to abuse the staff. However, his self-interest leads him to demand that his victims tend to his needs.

    As I see it, the man has two options. Either stop his criminal nonsence or go find treatment somewhere else.

  • fair_deal


    “Although I am not so sure that the courts acquiessed in the refusal of treatment.”

    The reference to the courts was how they had defined the material not in the decision about treatment.

  • fartrick

    Im surprised that a health care professional cant spell nonsense.A sign of the times perhaps. Methinks youre talking nonsense

  • Fraggle

    What does spelling nonsense have to do with health?

    Troll somewhere else and by the way, it’s ‘you’re’, not ‘youre’.

  • fartrick

    youre supposed to be professional.youve spoofed enough about it, yet you spell like the kids on bebo.

  • fartrick

    and by the way, youre attitude of “he wronged us, so were right to wrong him back” is typical of whats wrong with our society today. when it comes from a health care ” professional” it makes very sad reading indeed

  • Henry94

    If the boot were on the other foot and a hospital refused to treat an abortionist would we have a different view?

    Because the principle is the right to refuse to treat people you object to. Once that is conceded we are on a mad road.

  • Fraggle

    They are not ‘wronging him back’. They are simply refusing to provide a service to an abusive individual. He is free to seek care elsewhere. He would get exactly the same treatment from a lot of pharmacies, medical practices or dental practices.

    Henry, your analogy or an abortionist doesn’t stand up. The abortionist is not abusing the staff.

  • fartrick

    refusing to provide a service is “wronging him back”, no matter what way you spin it.
    your attitude is the attitude the killers of the young lad in ballymena possess. i hope you are proud of the death and hurt that you culture, mr health care “professional”

    you say he would get “exactly the same treatment from a lot of pharmacies, medical practices or dental practices”, but not them all. The decent ones would treat him

  • fartrick

    btw, why are you ignoring rorys comment

  • Fraggle

    I wasn’t ignoring anyone, I was having lunch.

    They are not ‘wronging’ because they are not wrong. They are protecting the rights of their employees.

    You are too busy trolling that you’ve lost sight of the story. The Trust in question will provide treatment for life-threatening conditions so your statement ” i hope you are proud of the death and hurt that you culture, mr health care “professional” ” would be silly rubbish even if it made sense.

    Now I am busy and you are a troll fartrick.

  • ncm

    In fairness I’d go a along with the idea that courts punish crimes and hospitals treat people. The people in the NHS are funded by taxes, and shouldn’t have the right to deny access to care, or insist that someone should go elsewhere.

  • missfitz

    Well lets look at it from another perspective, and this is from my experiences working in the Trauma room at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx.

    We treated everyone there, as we were an indigent hospital. In fact, I think we were the third largest trauma department in the States.

    We had drug addicts, violent criminals, prostitutes, drug dealers, mobs and gangs. One common denominator? They treated the staff with repsect, and we duly did likewise.

    Actually, I recall the day I announced I was moving to Belfast. We had a young fellow on a stretcher with a knife wedged in his knee joint, lying moaning. When I said where I was going, he shot up on the trolley and said” Are you crazy man, they kill each other over there!”

    Maybe I should have listened to the druggies.

    On the other hand, when we had patients who treated us with disrepect, we refused treatment. I’m sorry Rory, but its that simple.

    I was bitten by someone with Aids once, and she was in her right mind at the time. She was cleaned up and discharged from the department. I was held up at knifepoint another time, and the full might of the NYPD went out looking for the chap ao he could hepl them with their enquiries.

    That was all in the bad old days in New York, I think things have cleaned up a lot, but there was that line that you didnt cross.

    This man purposely terrorised the staff at the hospital, and he should be refused elective treatment and advised to go elsewhere.

    Maybe I should make that point again, we would treat any and all in an emergency. Indeed, we once treated a man who had raped a 98 year old lady. But once emergency treatment is administered,. thats it, cheers. off you go and find somewhere else


  • Rory

    Miss Fitz, much as I am sympathetic to the plight of health workers subject to abuse it is nevertheless part of the job description really and musts be endured. You admit yourself that even the most abusive patients must be given emergency treatment and then moved elsewhere for treatment (but treated nevertheless). There is no indication that this man has any issue with health personnel other than his opposition to abortion or that he would be abusive or violent while receiving treatment for a hip condition. To refuse to treat him now is petty and vindictive and unbecoming of a vocational health professional.

    As you have pointed out there would be no case against providing orthapedic treatment for a serial rapist/killer even though failing to provide such treatment might well limit his ability to continue in his evil ways.

    There may have been some argument for declining to treat him had he been seeking to have an abortion I suppose but even with rapid advances in modern medicine this seems an unlikely prospect.

  • fair_deal


    “who treated us with disrepect”

    How is communicating a moral objection to a medical procedure disrespectful?

    From the scant details above it seems he hasn’t directly verbally abused staff nor physically assualted them he has simply distributed a leaflet.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Sorry, another health care professional here in support of this decision.

    The courts have sent him to gaol, for goodness sake! What more evidence for abusive behaviour do you want? His GP can refer him somewhere else for treatment (Peterborough, Norfolk & Norwich, Addenbrooke’s) and he will still get emergency care if required.

    They warned him, he ignored them. I really do not see what the big deal is.

  • missfitz


    Right, I just spent 20 minutes writing my reply on this thread and it disappeared.

    I shall be brief!

    Rory, catch yourself on. There is nothing in a job description that says you are there to be abused. The only thing that is there is the Health and Safety legislation placing a duty of care on the employer to ensure a safe working environment.

    This fellow sent “extremely” distressing literature to staff about abortions, and he was asked to stop. He continued, and sent more, so was sent to jail. No member of staff needs to take that type of abuse.

    Fair deal
    Of course he has a right to present his views and opinions, but like everything its about context. He has the right to stage a protest, to write letters, to join a protest.

    But when he clearly broke the law and had to be jailed, that takes him outside the legal parameters of protest and he has to be treated in that fashion.

    I suspect I know the kind of pictures he was sending, and I wouldnt want to get them. It is psychologically damaging to be subject to this, and the staff in question may not even have been involved in abortions, we dont know.

    I was always a conscientious objector to abortion procedures where I worked, and that was a protest., I didn tneed to break the law to make my point

  • Garcia! He drink sangria!

    Wise up. He abused healthcare staff, was warned repeatedly to stop, carried on and got himself lifted…and then wonders why they want nothing to do with him? There’s more than one HSS trust in NI, he’ll just have to drag his dogdy self-righteous hip elsewhere….


  • Rubicon

    Garcia – where in the article do we learn that he was warned “repeatedly”? I can’t find it – but perhaps you have another source?

    He expressed a point of view (that I don’t agree with) and did so in an illegal manner. He has been punished for that – TWICE. Only one source of punishment has legitimacy.

    The NHS is not there to adjudicate on behaviour but on illness. The matter was referred to the courts and was dealt with.

    Once he has paid his debt to society the self-appointed righteous brigade seem to think themselves ordained to continue punishment. The NHS does not have this right and I hope he sues their ass!

    When he succeeds all the rest of us Sluggers will complain about the waste of money the case caused and want those responsible to be held accountable. Those responsible will not be denied disability allowance, not denied access to the roads, not denied the vote, …

    None of the services afforded is delivered on the basis of liking the person.

    If you want paid by the public purse get on with doing what the public pay you for! This man did not cause a disruption to the immediate delivery of services, he didn’t punch staff or interfere with the daily running of services.

    Upsetting NHS staff does not give them a right to ignore the role of the courts and act as a second court. I may not agree with this man’s views – but do I need to agree with the NHS staff on all medical procedures before being entitled to the care I’ve paid for?

    Do I just need to keep my mouth shut?

  • Snuff Box

    Another Health Care Professional sticking up up for the Comrades.

    Health Care professionals are bound by a duty of care. This is largely to do with situations which requrie an emergency aspect of care. It does not hold true in all situations. IE if someone is having a heart attack we are duty bound to assist no matter what the time of day or night. If however someone wants help measuring their Blood-Glucose then that is another matter. There is not an unassialable right for patients to avail of our labour. It is governened by necessity and need.

    If the person involved was having a heart attack the hospital is duty bound to help. A pre-scheduled operation for a hip replacement which can be done at any hospital worth its salt is not an emergency procedure.

    If a court has uphelp that the protest has become abusive then that is good enough for me. I’m glad to see the the Trust ake such a stong line against such a person whn they transcend the normal rules of a deent protest. If they were more sturdy against verbally and physically abusive members of the public then moral would be a lot higher.

  • missfitz

    This is annoying me because it seems so obvious.

    Anyway, Rory and Fair deal…
    Just one question?

    Do you see any limits on what staff should take?

    I mean, Rory you said its in the job description, so I take it you’re OK with verbal assault. Is physical assault OK too?

    What about the nurse killed a couple of weeks ago in England? Was that OK? Was it in her job description?

    You see, you have to draw the line, and I honestly think it needs to be drawn real close to the zero. Take no shit from no-one, was our mantra.

  • Rubicon

    So – now we have it. Mr. 75 isn’t suitable for treatment by “us” – but it’s quite OK if he goes to the next hospital.

    What’s wrong with the folks at the next hospital? Are they not the same as you?

    What he did was deemed illegal and he was punished. All I’m hearing is “screw the bastard” and “screw the fools over the hill who’ll now have to deal with him”.

    Ex-nurses who think they’re ordained with the power to usurp the role of the courts are a bigger danger to society than this old head-banger!

  • Garcia! He drink sangria!


    Ummmm the ‘link’ to the repeated nature of his behaviour is at the top of this page. He sent stuff in, he was asked to stop, he continued blah blah.

    Nope, there is a duty of care, in life threatening situations but not for a new hip. He should go elsewhere. If he had an ounce of dignity he would do so anyway without being told.

    I don’t get this chap’s beef anyway. When was the GB Abortion Act 1967 applied to NI? Unless I missed something, the only abortions carried out in the hospital he was harassing were medically necessary or for other very restriced reasons. According to law anyway, I may be wrong.

    As far as you keeping your mouth shut, please don’t, I just wish I was as eloquent my friend!! 😉

  • Snuff Box


    This man is from Norfolk, England. U do realise this?

  • TheBigDude

    Another healthcare worker.
    I’d just like to point out that the NHS LPU(legal protection unit, an offshoot of the nhs security mangment service) was established to protect YOUR NHS.They have indroduced newer tougher guidlines which have replaced the old zero tolerance policy.

    They do this, in part, by seeking prosecution through both the civil and criminal courts against those who abuse or assault NHS staff.But also by offering conflict resolution training to all NHS staff.
    They are determined to increase the number of prosecutions and work closely with both the cps and police to do this, but they will also take independent legal action where the cps fails to bring charges.

    To those that dislike this , i suggest you get used to it, stories like this are going to become more frequent.

  • Garcia! He drink sangria!

    Ah he’s in Norfolk. Please erase my comments from the record, I really should read properly before I post. I’ll get me coat….

  • Snuff Box


    Is there any indication that the trust that the man was sent to actually offered the services which he objected to?

    Your assessment of the motivations of the trust seem very childish. Most health care workers simply want to get home witout someone calling them a **** or getting sick over themselves. In my experience management wouldnt undertake such a decision unless they believed that the man would be particularly beligerent in terms of treatment. If he is in a trust which he has not had problems with then it is probably better for all.

  • Garcia! He drinks sangria!

    I did Snuff Box, but after I had posted. I am now argument-less….for want of a better/real word.

  • Rubicon

    Garcia – I’ve no difference with you in disagreeing with the old fella. He should not have done what he did. After 4 weeks in the slammer he may well think again and I hope he does. If he remains resolute but desists from his actions that will be fine too.

    What I’m at a loss about is NHS staff taking their own action that’s neither principled nor appropriate.

    Let the first man/woman who wants the pile on his/her arse treated by a judge speak up now.

  • missfitz

    The point in referring him onwards was not to ‘pass the parcel’ so to speak, but perhaps there was some history there in that particular hospital that could not be overcome.

    Also you find that people can be quite cocky in familiar places, but start to behave themselves in new pastures.

    As to “Ex-nurses who think they’re ordained with the power to usurp the role of the courts are a bigger danger to society than this old head-banger!”……….

    I think I was the only one here who identified herself as an ex-nurse. Now, wait one wee second before you start laying in to me on this. I am not ordained, I have no power, and I believe in the judicial system

    The judicial system that banged this chap up for 28 days and told him TO GO TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL.

    Dont start playing the woman instead of the ball. It is not dignified

  • missfitz

    I thought that was quite funny, sorry for not telling you sooner…. lol

  • Garcia! He drink sangria!


    Ha ha, glad I amused, at least I had some effect 🙂 How to destroy your own argument in one post eh? I’m still blushing…. 🙂

    Garcia….you know what he drinks!

  • Rubicon

    MissFitz – you suggest “perhaps” but reach conclusions.

    The article refers to THREE occasions when this man sent the offensive literature for which he was punished.

    How do you move from this to, “some history there in that particular hospital that could not be overcome”? From this apparent assumption you then move to arguing that it’s OK for the hospital over the hill having the responsibility to deal with him.

    You then allege the, “judicial system that banged this chap up for 28 days and told him TO GO TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL”. Can you point me to where in the linked article the court made that recommendation? I can’t find it.

    I accept that you are not ordained – since you say so. Whether you believe in the judicial process is another matter. You do recognise that the case was dealt with by the judiciary? Are you in possession of evidence not presented?

    If I played the woman rather than the ball (and I think I did) I am sorry.

    Too many so-called health professionals self appoint themselves as moral authorities (much as this old guy did).

    But … I could be wrong. Do you have the evidence Missfitz?

  • missfitz

    Okay Rubicon


    This article from the Times gives a little more detail.

    And this is a quote from Atkinson at his trial:
    “I accept that the documentation was highly distressing. It’s horrendous, monstrous and sickening but it represents the truth of what is going on in our world.”

    Let me clarify my arguments.

    I said that “perhaps there was some history there in that particular hospital that could not be overcome.”

    In this case, I was suggesting that perhaps there was some unreported history in this case between this man and the staff. Thats all, no conclusions there just a proposition. I could be wrong about that, but experience tells me there may be more to that particular angle of the story.

    As I read more, I see that indeed this is a long running dispute, and a form of protest that he thought was appropriate. He had been fined before and given an ASBOS.

    Indeed he was only waiting for an assessment for his hip, not even treatment at this stage, so I suspect this might be a red herring issue to sex up the story.

    I think I have provided the additional material you requested m’lud, is that now acceptable?

    I just wonder if there is a sub text to this thread? I am only working on the face value of the story, but is this actually turning into a pro life/ anti life debate? It shouldnt and we should stick to the core argument or be open and honest about what is being said

  • Rubicon

    Missfitz – thanks for the link,

    I read the story but couldn’t find the quote you attribute to the judge (“told him TO GO TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL”). I’m not being pedantic, the point is that I accept the court’s authority to make such a determination but I don’t the hospital’s unless he was presenting an immediate threat in which case hospital security should be used until the police arrive.

    It seems the court is well on top of this case and has warned this Mr. Atkinson that a repeat offence could see him spending up to 5 years in prison. That would certainly solve the problem of the Trust not needing to treat him.

    Speaking for myself, my points have absolutely nothing to do with the abortion issue – my earlier post described Atkinson as a “head-banger” – hardly a ringing endorsement of his views.

  • Zorro

    Given that the Courts seem to agree with the Trust, surely that vindicates Mr Atkinson’s stance and, consequently, his chosen method of communicating a moral objection?

  • esmereldavillalobos



  • missfitz

    I think we will need to disagree on this one.

    From my life and professional experience, I maintain that no-one should be or feel threatened at work by another individual if it is not explicitly in their terms and conditions.

    This man stepped over the line and has been refused assessment by people he was harrassing.

    I still think its a no brainer, and still wonder at those who feel its OK to risk the safety of hospital staff.

    No wonder so many of us leave those professions!

  • Rubicon

    OK Missfifz – you have your opinion and I have mine. You made statements that you haven’t backed up and when challenged you suggested a “sub-text” that had no substance either.

    Why you left the public service is a matter for yourself. I can’t say I’m that interested in why you did – the reasons you give today may be different to those you think might be convenient to invent for tomorrow’s argument.

    You quoted a judge as the basis for your view that treatment be denied. No abortion/anti abortion “sub-text” was introduced on this thread but by you. You still haven’t supported your allegation by evidence and your attempt to change the subject hasn’t worked.

    So – please support the statement you attributed or admit you made it up.

  • missfitz

    I made one statement that I didnt back up, not statements.

    OK, the court didnt tell him to slide on, they just banged him up and the hospital took legal advice and refused anything but essential treatment.

    But I dont know why you are fixating on that? It has nothing to do with the core issues: The Court took a serious view of his actions and jailed him for his anti abortion activities.

    Isnt ironic that people who preach respect for life dont practice it on living beings