Hospital issued DNR because a man had Down's Syndrome

  • A man with Down's syndrome is suing an NHS trust after a hospital gave his disability as one of the reasons for issuing a Do-Not-Resuscitate order.

    The instruction not to attempt resuscitation in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest was issued without his family's knowledge. The family of the man were unaware of the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decision until he had returned from hospital to his care home.

    Their lawyers describe the order as "blatant discrimination" however East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust says it complied fully with guidance from professional bodies.

    The 51-year-old  was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, on September 7 last year. He has dementia and was having a special tube fitted to help him with feeding.

    The DNR form, issued while he was in hospital in Margate a year ago, was listed as an indefinite decision, meaning it would cover the duration of his stay in hospital, with no review. The reasons given were 'Down's syndrome, unable to swallow (Peg [percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy] fed), bed bound, learning difficulties'.

    Despite almost daily visits from his relatives and also a carer from the home where he lives, the DNR form says there was no discussion with his next of kin because they were 'unavailable'.

    One his close relatives, who is pursuing the legal action on his behalf, said:

    He was looked after at home for as long as possible, but then we got him into a nice care home. His health deteriorated a bit - he had eating problems and couldn't swallow - so the decision was taken to have a Peg inserted so he could receive medication, foods and liquids.

    He was admitted to hospital for a fortnight. When he was discharged, one of the carers at his home was unpacking his bag and found the DNR form, to their horror. We weren't aware of the DNR until then.

    We were very angry and quite distressed, especially as he'd been re-admitted that day because he'd got pneumonia. He has a good way of life now, but somebody wasn't prepared to give him the time of day.

    Their solicitor Merry Varney, from Leigh Day & Co said:

    This is definitely one of the most extreme cases we have seen of a DNR order being 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 discrimination.

    The absurdity of this is highlighted by the contrast with cases where people wish to end their own lives.

    Mark Goldring, chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, said:

    We are very disappointed to hear about this case, but unfortunately, we believe that DNR orders are frequently being placed on patients with a learning disability without the knowledge or agreement of families. This is against the law.

    People with a learning disability enjoy meaningful lives like anyone else. Prejudice, ignorance and indifference, as well as failure to abide by disability discrimination laws, still feature in the treatment of many patients with a learning disability.

    Dr Neil Martin, medical director for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said:

    East Kent Hospitals has put a great deal in place in recent years to meet the needs of vulnerable patients. 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.



Related articles

  • Read More

    Young people with learning disabilities more likely to be abused

    A group of children’s charities have said that young people with disabilities have the “same vulnerabilities” as all young people but face extra “barriers” to getting protection or support,...

  • Read More

    Success for a disability sport programme

    The programme ran for three weeks and included multi-sport camps at Aberdeen Sports Village, reports the Mearns Leader. Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee...

  • Read More

    Hartlepool to open a disability centre

    Work has begun on the Hartlepool Borough Council project which aims to provide the Centre for Independent Living on the site of the current Havelock Centre in Burbank, reports The Hartlepool Mail.It...

  • Read More

    Reform for care of adults with learning disabilities criticised for being slow

    Following the care home abuse scandal at Winterbourne, Sir Stephen Bubb headed a review into care home abuse, which was published in November, reports the BBC.England's chief nursing officer said...

  • Read More

    Campaigners warn that people with disabilities are losing rights due to government cuts

    Charities are concerned that the rights of people with learning disabilities to live independent lives are slipping due to government cuts to benefits and social care, reports the Guardian. A letter...

  • Read More

    Concern over disability benefits following council change

    On the 30th of June a £500m Independent Living Fund will be in the control of local authorities, leaving people fearing how the benefit allowance for disabled adults will be affected, reports the...

  • Read More

    Victims of disability hate crime are being let down

    Police, prosecutors and probations services have failed to bring in need change over the past two years, a report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate has found, reports the BBC.The CPS, police and...

  • Read More

    New initiative to support young people with disabilities

    Liberty Staffordshire Community Interest Company have been developed to maximise opportunities for young people due to growing concern they could be left isolated following the withdrawal of...

  • Read More

    How technology is helping people with disabilities

    At the exhibit people presented all-terrain wheelchairs, adapted smartphone for people whose fingers can't cope with normal devices, wheelchairs that allow the user to become level with the people...

  • Read More

    Charities call for action on accessible housing

    Leonard Cheshire Disability charity has told The Yorkshire Post that the lack of housing which is accessible for people with disabilities must become and election issue and is calling for the...

Support Solutions 5th National Housing Support & Social Care Conference 2014 Good organisation from beginning to end. Excellent keynote speaker. Relevant and important topics for discussion which were to everyone's advantage within the supported housing sector. B.H - Stevenage Haven


Briefing Signup