Seven months before Jessie Colquhoun’s death, two visitors to Gartnavel Royal Hospital, where she was being treated, witnessed a male nurse dragging the 88-year-old dementia patient down a corridor by her ankles.
The 5’2″ elderly woman also suffered from a heart condition and osteoarthritis, which caused horrible back pain, making this inhumane treatment all the more horrifying. She was reportedly too frightened to let anyone examine her after the incident, so nobody really knows if she was injured when she was dragged through the hall.
Colquhoun’s family was not notified of the incident until several days later, and the hospital refused to give them any details while the investigation was underway. They did not know what had happened until they read about it in the news, and when they realized who the story was about, they contacted police and had Colquhoun moved to a different hospital.
At that time, two nurses had been suspended pending an investigation into whether one of them had committed this heinous act. But the case wouldn’t go to trial until after Colquhoun’s death seven months later.
“She had only been in there a short time when it happened,” said an unnamed family member following the trial. “She was absolutely tormented up there. She was saying everybody was trying to kill her. I thought it was the illness. I didn’t realise anything had actually happened to her. I feel quite bad for that.”
50-year-old Steven Campbell, the nurse who dragged Colquhoun through the hospital, was brought to court about a year later. He claimed he had merely “swiveled” Colquhoun into her room to keep her out of harm’s way as two other patients who were angry at her were coming toward her.
However, sisters Claire Wright, 33, and Debbie McGrath, 34, disagreed. They were visiting a family member in the hospital when they claim they saw a strongly built male nurse drag an elderly woman for one or two meters down the hall by her ankles, not apparently pursued by anyone. Colquhoun was reportedly showing no signs of violence that might have prompted this behavior from Campbell.
It was only at that trial that the family finally learned exactly what happened to their loved one, and they were understandably horrified.
“We were never told by the hospital what actually happened to her. We have had to sit through this trial to find out,” said Colquhoun’s granddaughter, Sharon Hennigan.
Campbell has been found guilty and will be sentenced in January. But Colquhoun’s family hopes the incident helps prevent further issues like this in the future.
“I hope the health board learn some lessons from this,” said an unnamed family member. “Maybe they will have staff who are able to handle patients like her. If she was being difficult, they should be able to handle a difficult patient with dementia.”
We have a duty to protect the elderly as some of the most vulnerable people among us. If you have witnessed elder abuse or believe a senior you know is being abused in a hospital or care home, please do not be afraid to speak up.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?