More than sixty Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders applied to those with learning disabilities last year were done incorrectly or without consultation with patients or carers, an expert report has revealed.
The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review – which is produced annually by academics from the University of Bristol – found DNRs were applied “based on an inappropriate medical condition or impairment or circumstance of the individual” – including Down’s syndrome or “learning disability”.
The news comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published its report on DNR decisions made during the pandemic earlier this year, describing the evident use of ‘blanket’ DNRs as potentially “unlawful” and “discriminatory”.
The review revealed that in 2020 25 DNRs had been applied displaying “no evidence of proper decision-making”.
It is not only illegal but outrageous that a doctor would decide not to save someone just because they have a learning disability.
In one case an order had been applied “without any family involvement”, despite the patient’s sister holding power of attorney for their health and welfare.
Last year, after initial reports that people with learning disabilities had been issued DNR orders, 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 the CQC’s findings, 508 DNRs were applied without the agreement of the person, their relative or carer between 17 March and 21 December 2020.
It added that it was “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.