Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Woman to tell story of four lives

Woman to tell story of four lives
By Frances Gibb
Times on Line - June 01, 2005

A judge rules that a film about a psychiatric patient and her warring personalities can be screened

A DOCUMENTARY about a woman whose life is controlled by four conflicting personalities is to go ahead next week after a failed legal attempt to prevent it being televised.

A judge rejected an attempt last week to block a Channel 4 film featuring the life of Pamela Edwards, 32, who needs 24-hour care to help her to cope with her disturbing condition.

The ground-breaking ruling by Mr Justice Munby, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has implications for upholding the right to freedom of expression.

He had been asked to prevent the documentary being shown by the local authority responsible for Ms Edwards’s care and by the Official Solicitor, who represents the interests of those who cannot represent themselves.

The grounds for the move were that Ms Edwards lacked the capacity to give permission to take part in the filming and that it amounted to a breach of her privacy under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

She won the right for her story to be told after the judge apparently gave greater weight to the right to freedom of expression.

Ms Edwards, whose condition is known as dissociative identity disorder, is looked after in her home in northwest England by 20 staff funded by St Helens local authority at a cost of £500,000 a year.

Psychiatrists believe that she developed the condition as a means of escaping the reality of physical abuse and neglect suffered as a child.

The documentary, Being Pamela, which will be screened at 9pm on June 8, follows Ms Edwards’s life as she struggles to deal with the four different internal characters she has named Andrew, Sandra, Margaret and Susan. In one manifestation of the condition, the characters fight among themselves, causing Ms Edward to harm herself.

David Modell, the film’s director, said that the documentary had taken almost two years to make and was an important exploration of the condition. There was a great deal of anger inside Ms Edwards, he said, because of the abuse that she had suffered as a child. She had developed the personalities to disconnect herself from her body so that she could believe the abuse was happening to someone else. The characters related to each other in different ways so that it would appear that Ms Edwards was hugging herself or deliberately pulling out her own hair, he added.

One of the characters, Sandra, appeared to be very controlling and to know what she was doing, he said, but she had little understanding of the outside world and often put Ms Edwards in dangerous situations.

Mr Justice Munby, who has seen the film, has not yet announced his detailed reasons for the decision.

Jan Tomalin, controller of legal and compliance at Channel 4, said: “In freedom of expression terms I anticipate it will be a significant judgment for the rights of people with mental health problems to talk freely about their lives and discuss matters private to them in public if they choose to do so.”