Man, 51, with Down’s Syndrome suing NHS after a ‘do not resuscitate’ order was put in his files without family consent
- Staff at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, allegedly had the DNR in place
- The man, referred to as AWA, would not have been resuscitated if he suffered heart or respiratory arrest
- The main reason for this was because he was disabled, paperwork said
- Hospital trust says they were following correct procedures
PUBLISHED: 10:28, 13 September 2012 | UPDATED: 01:54, 14 September 2012
A man with Down’s syndrome is to sue an NHS hospital after a ‘do not resuscitate’ order was allegedly put on his file without his family’s knowledge.
A note on the 51-year-old’s medical record said he should not be revived if he had a heart attack or stopped breathing, apparently on the basis of his disability.
His family said they were not told about the DNR order, despite visiting him almost daily during his three-week stay at the hospital.
Horrified relatives only learned about the instruction when one of the man’s carers found it folded up in his bag after he was discharged.
They say his treatment was ‘degrading and disgraceful’ and have started a legal action on his behalf against the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent.
Lawyers for the man, identified only as AWA, said the decision to withhold life-saving treatment on the basis of his learning difficulties was ‘nothing short of blatant prejudice’.
The DNR allegedly reveals doctors did not discuss the order with AWA because he did not have the mental capacity. No information was given to his family because they were said to be unavailable, even though they visited him almost every day and his parents had meetings with his doctors.
Lawyers for the family said the order gave the reasons for the decision as ‘Down’s syndrome’, ‘learning difficulties’, and because AWA was ‘bed-bound’ and ‘unable to swallow’.
Response: The hospital trust says that it was following proper procedures
The form also allegedly said the DNR order should remain indefinitely, without any planned review. A close relative said: ‘It is just not acceptable, not being consulted on whether someone lives or dies.’
AWA, who also has dementia, lived with his parents until late 2010, when he went into residential care.
In August 2011 he was admitted to hospital to have a feeding tube fitted to his stomach, and returned a month later over problems with it. When he left three weeks later, a carer at his residential home found the DNR order.
The man’s relative, who cannot be identified, said AWA was not aware of the case, adding: ‘We were all shocked to find out what had been put into AWA’s notes without our knowledge.
‘One member of the family at least was in the hospital practically every day and could have been consulted.
‘We are bringing this action to highlight the issue and to make sure that something like this cannot happen to another loved son and brother.’
AWA’s lawyer, Merry Varney, said: ‘To use Down’s syndrome and learning difficulties as a reason to withhold life-saving treatment is nothing short of blatant prejudice.
‘If an individual was physically preventing a doctor from administering life-saving treatment to a disabled relative, it would be a matter for the police, yet we see doctors taking this decision without consent regularly.’
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust would not comment on the case. But medical director Dr Neil Martin said it complied with the Mencap charity’s charter on helping people with learning disabilities, and had ‘clear, robust’ resuscitation policies that met professional guidelines.