‘Unchecked discrimination’: COVID-19 DNRs for people with learning difficulties

Patients with learning difficulties are still being wrongly issued with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) orders during the second wave of the pandemic, a charity has revealed.

The practice was severely criticised last year, but Mencap has reported receiving notification of new cases as recently as January.

In December, the Care Quality Commission said it had heard “deeply troubling evidence” that DNR notices had been used in a “discriminatory” manner against people with “a learning disability” or “on the grounds of age alone” during the first surge of COVID-19 infections.

‘Shocking discrimination’

Edel Harris, Mencap’s Chief Executive, told The Guardian newspaper that many people with a learning disability had faced “shocking discrimination” throughout the pandemic and that it was “inappropriate” for DNR notices to be put on their files.

The Chief Executive added: “It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared”.

According to The Guardian, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said it was entirely inappropriate for DNRs to be “applied in a blanket fashion to any group of people”.

The spokesperson continued: “We have asked the CQC to undertake a review of notices issued during the pandemic. This review has started and will report later this year. As this proceeds, we will continue to work across the health and care system to address the issue.”

Disability campaigner

Earlier this month, Paralympic legend and disability campaigner Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke out against people with disabilities being given DNRs without their knowledge.

Lady Grey-Thompson told BBC Look North that the ‘blanket’ orders should not be happening, and said talks need to take place between the NHS and disability groups.

She also said: “There shouldn’t be a blanket Do Not Resuscitate purely because of somebody’s level of impairment.”

Also see:

Hospital corridor

Call for review into number of DNARs in Scotland as patients ‘not informed’

NHS asked some care homes to place DNR orders on all patients during pandemic

Pensioners fight back against ‘draconian DNRs’

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