NDIS Death Puts Spotlight on Provider Responsibility

The recent news of a South Australian woman with cerebral palsy who died on 06 April 2020, has left many disgusted and sickened by the circumstances of her death.

After her parents passed away in 2009, Ann-Marie Smith lived alone, in the care of a local support service. Despite being funded for 6 hours of personal care per day through the NDIS, reports indicate that Ms Smith had been sitting in a cane chair for 24 hours per day, every day (which had also become her toilet), and had died from severe septic shock, multi-organ failure, severe pressure sores, malnutrition and issues related to her cerebral palsy.

While a manslaughter investigation and coronial enquiry are underway, we are left wondering how – or why – something so horrific could occur? It is deplorable.

The NDIS has been established to ensure that everyone who needs the support of the system is provided the level of care and assistance they need to live as independently as possible, and with the dignity afforded to any other individual. It should go without saying that care ought to be compassionate, respectful and responsive. This cruel act must be absolutely condemned and any learnings from the investigation must be applied to prevent any further horrific deaths.

This inexcusable incident sends a strong message to providers about what can happen when obligations aren’t taken seriously. We need to remind ourselves that being a NDIS provider isn’t the certificate you get with registration. It’s the act of supporting those more vulnerable than us with dignity, respect and compassion – with every participant in our care, every time.