Sunday, 26 June 2011

A Rich Woman and a Richman show that it’s not the Money but the Thought that Counts

I found the story this week, of Hadassah Peri an interesting one. Twenty years ago, Hadassah, orginally from the Philippines, and working as a nurse in New york, was sent to look after Huguette Clark. At the time Huguette was an 84 year old millionaire recluse. She had inherited a quarter of a billion pounds back in 1927, money made from copper mining. When Huguette died she left £21 million of her estate to the nurse who had cared for her all this time.

In a statement released through her lawyers, Hadassah said she was ‘awed at the generosity Huguette has shown me and my family, and was eternally grateful’. She was with Huguette every day for the 20 years. She said ‘I was her private duty nurse but also her close friend. I knew her as a kind and generous person, with whom I shared many wonderful moments and whom I loved very much I am profoundly sad at her passing’. Huguette Clark’s family will receive virtually nothing from the legacy.

The case has sparked a growing debate in the nursing profession, both in the US and here in the UK over the ethics of nurses receiving gifts from those in their care. I predict it will run for some time yet. Spookily, the Health Service Journal, using the Freedom of Information Act last month revealed that Hospital Trusts in the UK still owed the Department of Health a quarter of a billion pounds, with most of the debt resulting from mass bailouts made during the financial crisis of 2006. Hospital Trusts had been given £778m in working capital loans by the DH in 2006-07 and £247m since then. By the end of 2010-11 Trusts still owed £269m and 11 trusts had £10m or more outstanding. However, I am willing to bet that this is a debate that will be as loud as the noise of one hand clapping.

The week ended for me on a sad note with the funeral of my friend, colleague and great mental health nurse Tom Mason. Tom was one of those very special people, who always put other's first, whatever the cost he was always willing to show he cared. Much of his work was in the field of forensic mental health and his prolific publications in this and other areas of nursing care helped shape the services we now have in the UK. In 1999, Tom was awarded the International Association of Forensic Nurses Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements. His work with colleagues all over the world was always given freely, and his leadership and scholarship will be greatly missed.

Tom was a humanitarian, a member of Amnesty International and active opponent of the use of torture. He was a gentle man but one passionate about promoting nursing practice, education and research – and to this end he succeeded very well.

During the celebration of his life led by his wife Elizabeth, Tom had been keen that his mentor and the man who had been a big influence in shaping his life course, should be acknowledged. This was  a man  who was possibly one of the greatest thinkers I have ever had the fortune to encounter – he was the late Professor Joel Richman. Joel was also my PhD supervisor, colleague and generous friend, as he was too many of the people at Tom’s funeral. And I want to add my voice in salute to the way both these extraordinary men touched so many of our lives in such a positive way.

However, I am sure like me, your thoughts are with Elizabeth and Tom’s family during this difficult time.