Man, 51, with Down's Syndrome suing NHS after a 'do not resuscitate' order was put in his files without family consentStaff at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, allegedly had the DNR in placeThe man, referred to as AWA, would not have been resuscitated if he suffered heart or respiratory arrestThe main reason for this was because he was disabled, paperwork said
Hospital trust says they were following correct procedures
00:54 GMT, 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.
The 51-year-old was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent and allegedly had a DNR order put on his file without his family's knowledge
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
‘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.