‘Do Not Resuscitate’ on Down’s man’s hospital notes based on learning difficulties ‘nothing short of blatant prejudice’ say lawyers

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.

The Heil


5 thoughts on “‘Do Not Resuscitate’ on Down’s man’s hospital notes based on learning difficulties ‘nothing short of blatant prejudice’ say lawyers

  1. Laz says:

    I do wonder if this is a part of an agenda being forced by the Government.I was addmitted with chest pains to a Hospital after loosing conciosness for over ten minuets .Althought the Hospital was in a Town where there were no military establishments but was treated by a Doctor who was still in the Royal Navy but dressed in civvies.He seemed pretty eager to push patients out of A&E despite a few arguments with staff members.I was released but later suffered Heart problems .This was during the Thatcher Era when Management was under pressure to reduce waiting times and clear beds.I remeber one middle aged chap being told he had indegestion despite reporting chest pain and being bought in by ambulance ,when leaving leaving the Hospital he Droped Down Dead out side the doors as result of a heart attack.There were many negligence cases bought against NHS Hospitals later as a result of this period that proved negligence , figures during the Thatchers Governments reign were proved at this time period unusualy High .
    The Labour government was left with a mass of compensation and negligence cases when the Torys lost the elections.
    Are they doing assesments and on this validating the order not to resussatate ?

  2. Terminator says:

    I went in hospital a few years ago for what they called a routine op, only to find out that I had spent 4 days in an intensive care unit and to hear a doctor telling family that they should get there within an hour if they wished to see me alive one last time something tells me that a DNR sheet was within my papers on that unit

  3. Purplewheels says:

    Utterly disgraceful. ‘Following procedure’ – a similar excuse was used by the Nazis when they murdered people with disabilities!

  4. jeffery davies says:

    there we are then we just lumps of meat and when passed the sell by date just thrown away onto the scrap heap ,i wonder when a toff goes into hospital would this be posted on his medical notes na its just us wh o pay daily by this lot maltreatment of us evil to the core jeff3

  5. kasbah says:

    This is totally unacceptable very worrying and has more than a whiff of the Nazi treatment ie murder of people with learning difficulties in the 1930s about it. I expect the Nazi administrators would have described their policies as “robust” to0.

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