Friday, September 14, 2012

Man with Down syndrome sues NHS trust over 'do not resuscitate'

From the AFP:
LONDON — A man with Down's Syndrome is taking legal action against an NHS trust after medics placed a 'do not resuscitate' (DNR) order on his file without his family's knowledge, they said Thursday.
The 51-year old, who suffers from dementia and is fed through a tube into his stomach, was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, from September 7-26 last year.
Despite his family and carer visiting him daily, and his parents meeting clinicians, the DNR order was discovered only when the man -- referred to as AWA -- returned to his residential home.
The order told staff not to perform resuscitation if AWA suffered a cardiac or respiratory arrest, giving his disability as the only reason, and offering no possibility of review.
A family member known as Mr X, who is handling the legal action against East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust on his behalf, said: "We were all shocked to find out about 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 about the decision.
"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."
Merry Varney, from the human rights team at the man's lawyers Leigh Day & Co, said: "This is definitely one of the most extreme cases we have seen of a DNR order being not only imposed on a patient without consent or consultation.
"To use Down's Syndrome and learning difficulties as a reason to withhold lifesaving 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 undoubtedly be a matter for the police, yet we see doctors taking this decision without consent or consultation regularly."
Dr Neil Martin, medical director for the NHS trust, said: "The Trust cannot comment on this individual case because it is subject to ongoing legal proceedings.
"East Kent Hospitals has put a great deal in place in recent years to meet the needs of vulnerable patients, including practical steps to improve communication with people with learning disabilities and their carers.
"It has a clear and robust policy in place on 'do not attempt cardio-pulmonary resuscitation' which complies fully with national guidance from the professional bodies."

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