During the coronavirus pandemic, three quarters of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders were applied without checking if the patient could discuss their care, a report has found.
The report by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) revealed that over 40 per cent of healthcare workers admitted to assuming that disabled or elderly patients with DNRs on their records did “not have mental capacity” to discuss their treatment.
It also detailed how DNRs were disproportionately applied to disabled and elderly patients.
One respondent to the inquiry shared how their GP surgery carried out a “blanket reassessment” of all its patients with learning difficulties – resulting in two individuals having DNRs applied to them, despite having no underlying health problems.
Another, who works with adults with learning disabilities, said they had received “a blanket letter from their GP to advise that due to Covid-19 all tenants would need to be put on a do not attempt resuscitation”.
There was also an account of a carer who said decisions were made “not to take people to hospital, decisions not to escalate treatment, which are equally, if not more, worrying”.
Responding to the report, BIHR Director Sanchita Hosali said the use of DNRs was “deeply rooted in the daily discrimination faced by disabled people and older people”.
The NHS responded by saying that the blanket application of DNRs was “totally unacceptable”.
The report has been submitted to the Care Quality Commission, which is conducting its own inquiry on DNR application during the pandemic.
the daily discrimination faced by disabled people and older people
Last month, Paralympian legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson blasted the discriminatory practice of blanket DNR application.
She told the BBC: “There shouldn’t be a blanket Do Not Resuscitate purely because of somebody’s level of impairment. It’s got to be on a more one-to-one level than that.”