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Man with Down’s syndrome sues over DNR order
Thursday 13 September 2012
Mencap criticises healthcare professionals over “discriminatory and incorrect assumptions” about learning disability following 'do not resuscitate' (DNR) order
An NHS hospital in Kent is being sued by the family of a man with Down’s syndrome, who say that a doctor placed a 'do not resuscitate' (DNR) order on their relative, because of his disability. At no point was the man or his family consulted about the DNR order.
A doctor placed the instruction on the patient’s notes, while he was in hospital in Margate last year. It gave the instruction not to provide potentially life saving treatment in the event that he suffered a cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The reasons given on the form – which covered the entire duration of his stay – were listed as: ‘Down's syndrome, unable to swallow... bed bound, learning difficulties.’
Lawyers from Leigh Day & Co, acting on behalf of the family, have described the decision as “blatant discrimination". Meanwhile, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has said that it fully complied with guidance from professional bodies.
The 51-year-old man, who can only be named as AWA, has dementia and was in hospital to have a tube fitted to aid feeding. The first that he or his family knew about the DNR form was after he had been discharged from hospital, when a carer at AWA’s home found it while unpacking his bags.
Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, 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.
“All too often, decisions made by health professionals are based on discriminatory and incorrect assumptions about a patient’s quality of life. People with a learning disability enjoy meaningful lives like anyone else. Yet our reports, Death by indifference, and 74 deaths and counting, highlight that 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.
“Health professions need to understand their legal duties when treating people with a learning disability, and be held to account when they fail to do so.”
Find out more about Mencap’s Death by indifference campaign