COVID-19: NHS warns that blanket DNRs should not be issued to vulnerable

NHS England has warned that blanket ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (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.

The clarification follows a number of cases where GPs are perceived to have tried to pressurise the elderly and vulnerable into signing DNRs.

‘Unacceptable’

NHS England and Baroness Campbell reiterated that the outbreak of COVID-19 does not change the “long-established best practice” that decisions around care should be made on an individual basis by patients and their doctors.

the blanket application of do not attempt resuscitation orders is totally unacceptable and must not happen

They stated that people should be provided with “clear advice on options from their clinicians” which enable them to make “active and informed judgements about their own care and treatment, at all stages of their life”.

The statement concluded: “the blanket application of do not attempt resuscitation orders is totally unacceptable and must not happen”.

‘Death warrant’

Last month, a GP surgery in Wales apologised for writing to patients with serious health problems asking them to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form.

Llynfi Surgery told patients they would not be offered ventilators if they suffered from conditions such as motor neurone disease or incurable cancer.

In a letter, the surgery stated that people deemed to have “significant life-limiting illnesses” were “unlikely to be offered hospital admission should they become unwell and certainly will not be offered a ventilator bed”. It also indicated that CPR would not be performed.

Elizabeth John, one of the patients who received the letter, said it “made me feel worthless and I felt as if I had been sent a death warrant”.

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