British Columbia

Elderly couple demand hospital end 'illegal detention'

An elderly Victoria couple has gone to B.C. Supreme Court to try to take back control of their lives, after they were committed and held in hospital after going there for care.

Douglas and Pamela Allen are asking a court to order their release from Victoria General Hospital

Elderly couple suing for freedom

9 years ago
Duration 4:46
Doctors with Vancouver Island Health Authority say they have dementia

An elderly Victoria couple has gone to B.C. Supreme Court to try to take back control of their lives, after they were committed and held in hospital after going there for care.

In court documents, the Vancouver Island Health Authority claims Pamela and Douglas Allen were suffering from neglect and poor nutrition because of a range of complex health conditions when they attended Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital looking for care in January.

According to court documents, several doctors diagnosed both with dementia, and each was committed under the Mental Health Act. They are now residing at Victoria General Hospital.

The doctors found both incapable of caring for themselves or each other at their suite in an independent living home for seniors, which they recently bought.

They also had their bank accounts frozen and placed under the control of the Public Guardian.

But the 84-year-olds claim they are capable of looking after themselves with the aid of a nurse, and recorded a video statement from the hospital ward that is now their home and what they describe as their prison.

In the video, Pamela is in a wheelchair and Douglas is confined to a bed by a restraining vest.

"I want to go to my home," says Pamela in the video. "They won't let us go to our own home and we haven't done anything."

Lawyer seeks release

Their lawyer, Jonathan Aiyadurai, said they should be released from the hospital ward where they're being kept.

"They're bored – my clients have not had a breath of fresh air since they went into the general hospital. No windows have been opened for them," he said.

"They haven't been allowed outside. The husband has been put in a straitjacket — very draconian and Kafkaesque if I may say, and this is all at the taxpayers' expense."       

Aiyadurai said the Allens are willing to pay for a nurse to visit them daily at their independent living unit, which they bought before being committed.

"Perhaps if my clients need some care – why can't they get that out in the community?"

He said his clients want the public to hear their story, and that's why they recorded the video.

"Wouldn't people like to know that that can happen?"

The couple's legal action also claims they were poorly fed and bathed at the James Bay Care Centre, that Pamela is being treated with insulin against her will, that they have not been allowed to attend their church, and that they have no access to their personal belongings, including Douglas's confiscated wallet.           

The Vancouver Island Health Authority said both had been evicted from a number of independent living facilities due to their refusal to accept home support and their failure to take care of themselves and their residences.

When asked to comment on the case, authority spokesperson Sarah Plank said, "To protect the privacy and confidentiality of our patients, we cannot comment on specific cases."

"Island Health takes our responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of vulnerable adults very seriously. When a vulnerable person is not able to safely care for themselves, or we receive a report of abuse, neglect or self-neglect, we have a responsibility under the Adult Guardianship Act to respond to protect the person’s safety and well-being," Plank said.

READ: Pamela and Douglas Allen's petition to the court

READ; Vancouver Island Health Authority's response

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?