COVID-19: DNRs issued to people with learning disabilities

People with learning disabilities have been issued with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) forms during the coronavirus pandemic because of their condition, it has been reported.

Health charity Turning Point said that it had learned of 19 such cases, while Learning Disability England (LDE) said ten of its member organisations had reported DNRs being issued without consultation in April.

It follows a small number of cases of GPs seeming to have pressured vulnerable and elderly people into signing DNRs.

Epilepsy

One man, discharged from hospital after being misdiagnosed with COVID-19, was given a DNR form because of his “blindness and severe learning disabilities”.

Marie-Anne Peters, whose brother has epilepsy, overturned his DNR which instructed that he should not be taken to hospital.

She said: “If the staff at his care home hadn’t alerted our local health commissioners or MP then who knows what could have happened. My brother has been fighting his whole life and keeps recovering. Why would we give up on him now?”

‘Chilling’

Julie Bass, Chief Executive of Turning Point, said: “It is not only illegal but outrageous that a doctor would decide not to save someone just because they have a learning disability. They have the same right to life as anyone else.”

In response to the issue, Turning Point and LDE have published a checklist for families and carers to advise them how to challenge DNRs if needed.

They have the same right to life as anyone else

Columnist Dominic Lawson, whose daughter has Down’s syndrome, called the situation “chilling”. He said: “Too often, the lives of people like my daughter were simply deemed not worth preserving”.

‘Unacceptable’

Last month, NHS England warned that blanket DNR forms should not be issued to the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

It made a joint statement with disabled peer Baroness Jane Campbell, following a meeting with disability rights advocates, voluntary organisations and specialist clinicians.

They concluded that “the blanket application of do not attempt resuscitation orders is totally unacceptable and must not happen”.

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