The mother of a young autistic man being treated in Scotland’s State Hospital at Carstairs says she felt physically sick at his deteriorating condition after being allowed to see him for the first time in three months.
Ruth Hughes described last week’s visit as “the worst day of her life” and believes anti-psychotic drugs that her son Gordon is being forced to take, against his family’s wishes, have caused his mental and physical condition to drastically worsen.
She now fears her son may die in Carstairs, designed to treat seriously ill patients who are a potential risk to themselves or others, and has been backed in her fight to get him moved by MSP Alexander Burnett, co-convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on autism.
The Sunday Post revealed in September how Gordon, diagnosed as a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and a learning disability, has spent three years locked up at the State Hospital despite only being sent there as there were no appropriate beds elsewhere.
After the hospital went into lockdown, Ruth was last week allowed to visit for the first time since September 8 and felt ill after seeing her 22-year-old son. She said: “My stomach flipped when I finally saw him. It was the worst day of my life. He is so drugged he can barely communicate and he just said, ‘Oh mum, please get me out of here’.
“Gordon’s health has progressively worsened since he was sent to the State Hospital. He is now on large doses of anti-psychotic drugs every day and I have seen a bright, intelligent boy change into one who slurs his speech and has aged terribly.
“He is skin and bone, his hair has fallen out, his cheek bones stick out and his teeth are terrible. I believe he will die in there if we can’t get him out. Sometimes he can barely speak to me on the phone.
“We want him home where he can be properly cared for but the system has just taken my son away from me. It’s like your worst nightmare.”
We told in September how Gordon was treated in a Glasgow hospital in 2017 after self-harming but was moved to the State Hospital as there were no beds available in a medium-secure unit.
After being admitted, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a diagnosis his family disagree with, and placed on a restriction order, meaning he can be held there indefinitely. Campaigners have described the detention of autistic people in maximum security as a scandal and say the environment of medication and restraint are counterproductive for their care.
Mr Burnett said detaining people with disabilities at the State Hospital was Scotland’s “secret shame”. He added: “The plight of these young men detained at Carstairs is only getting worse. I can only imagine the emotional trauma this is causing Gordon, his mother and others.”
The Scottish Government said it was “committed to ensuring all patients receive the care they require” and added it was reviewing mental health legislation “to determine if new measures are necessary to fulfil the distinct needs of people with learning disabilities or autism”.
When we initially reported Gordon’s case in September, the State Hospital said: “We can confirm there are no patients detained with autism as the only diagnosis. A patient would be considered for transfer once his mental health had improved and his behaviour was settled for a prolonged period.
“Our principal aim is to rehabilitate patients, ensuring safe transfer to appropriate lower levels of security.”
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