‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) orders applied during the coronavirus outbreak may have breached the human rights of more than 500 people, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) investigation has found.
In its shocking report on DNR decisions made during the pandemic, the CQC described the evident use of ‘blanket’ DNRs as potentially “unlawful” and “discriminatory”.
The detailed document is based upon information provided by adult social care providers, responses to a public consultation, statistical analysis and in-depth interviews with families and relevant professionals.
According to the 2,048 social care providers who submitted information to the CQC, 508 DNRs had been applied without the agreement of the person, their relative or carer between 17 March and 21 December 2020. This amounts to more than five per cent of all DNRs put in place by respondents.
It reported that, while many of these decisions had been reviewed, approximately a third of them were still on record at the time when information was requested in December.
The CQC described it as “worrying” that 119 of the 2,048 adult social care services that had offered information believed that groups of vulnerable people in their care had been subject to ‘blanket’ DNRs.
It added that these figures raised “serious concerns” over the breach of individuals’ human rights and, in the case of blanket DNRs, were “potentially discriminatory and unlawful”.
‘Time for action’
Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for Age UK, said: “It’s extremely disturbing that this report effectively stands up the notion that some older people’s rights to choose were ridden roughshod over during the pandemic.”
Dan Scorer, of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Everyone should receive access to personalised and non-discriminatory support. We now need to see action from Government.”
Last month, Paralympic legend and disability campaigner Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke out against people with disabilities being given DNRs without their knowledge, she argued: “There shouldn’t be a blanket Do Not Resuscitate purely because of somebody’s level of impairment.”
The CQC has called for a new Ministerial Oversight Group to be set up “to look in depth at the issues raised” in its report regarding end of life care.
In an experience echoing the findings of the CQC report, Sally-Rose Cyrille told the BBC she felt that her disabled sister’s life had been “totally written off”, after it emerged that a DNR had been put on her records without consulting the family.
Her sister, Miss Deleon, who had learning disabilities and schizophrenia, was admitted to hospital with respiratory problems and subsequently died of a heart attack.
After she tested positive for Covid-19, the hospital added a DNR notice to her medical records, partly on the grounds of her learning disability.
In response to the disturbing discovery, Sally-Rose said it was one the most “blatant forms of discrimination” she had ever encountered. She added: “I just couldn’t comprehend how that can be cited as a reason for someone not to be resuscitated.”