The 'degrading' death of cerebral palsy sufferer Ann Marie Smith has appalled the chairman of the disability royal commission.
The 'degrading' death of cerebral palsy sufferer Ann Marie Smith has appalled the chairman of the disability royal commission.

Disability royal commissioner appalled by Ann Marie’s death

The case of Ann Marie Smith - who had cerebral palsy and spent a year confined to a woven cane chair in her home before her death - has left the chairman of the disability royal commission appalled.

Ronald Sackville AO QC said the distressing details of the case went to the core of important policy questions under consideration of the royal commission.

"People with disability have the right to live independently in the community and in the safety of their home," Mr Sackville said.

Ms Smith died last month aged 54 from severe septic shock, multi-organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnutrition.

Police declared her death a major crime and launched a manslaughter investigation, after she was found in what they described as "disgusting and degrading circumstances".

Mr Sackville said he was open to the royal commission holding an inquiry into the circumstances of her death, once the police investigation or prosecution, was complete.

The royal commission is investigating what must be done to improve accountability, including through safeguarding mechanisms, appropriate monitoring and oversight practices.

Ann Marie Smith, 54, who died from serious illnesses developed while in full-time care.
Ann Marie Smith, 54, who died from serious illnesses developed while in full-time care.

"These investigations will expose many of the underlying issues that are pertinent to the circumstances of Ms Smith's death," Mr Sackville said.

Integrity Care SA worker Rosemary Maione, of Hectorville, was employed to care for Ms Smith full-time for the past six years and was sacked by the company last week.

Ms Maione is now at the centre of the police investigation and has hired prominent Adelaide barrister Stephen Ey to represent her. Mr Ey told The Advertiser it would not be appropriate for Ms Maione to comment.

Ms Smith was under the care of Disability SA until she moved to a federal NDIS plan in 2018. Maurice Corcoran, former Principal Community Visitor of SA's Community Visitor Scheme, said Ms Smith's death was "absolutely" preventable.

"She had an NDIS plan and the planner involved … should be reviewing to see how that's going," he told The Advertiser.

"An NDIS plan is more than just organising for six hours of support each day. It should include an assessment of the house and an assessment by an occupational therapist about what sort of equipment (is) required."

The State Government has created a taskforce to investigate the circumstances that led to Ms Smith's death. It is headed by Disability Advocate Dr David Caudrey.

Greens spokesman Senator Jordon Steele-John criticised the appointment and said it should be led by people with a disability, "not by individuals with links to the very systems at fault".

Dr Caudrey was previously an executive director of Disability SA.

In response, Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said: "The taskforce will include a broad range of independent members including people living with disability, advocates, parents and service providers".

Originally published as Disability royal commissioner appalled by Ann Marie's death


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