A checklist has been published to support disabled people, families and care staff in challenging illegal ‘do not resuscitate’ orders from doctors.
The document was drawn up in response to a survey by Learning Disability England (LDE) that found that 20% of its members had seen ‘do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ (DNACPR) forms placed in people’s medical records without consultation in March and April.
In one example, a man in his 50s with sight loss was incorrectly diagnosed with coronavirus after being admitted to hospital following a choking incident.
Doctors discharged the patient the next day with a DNACPR form on the basis of “blindness and severe learning disabilities”.
Turning Point, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities to live more independent lives, said the checklist will help protect the rights of people with a learning disability if they become sick with coronavirus.
Senior NHS officials and ministers have taken action to stop forms being issued widely. But unlawful orders are still being received by Turning Point and LDE.
The aim of the checklist is to support disabled people, their families and carers to ask key questions, such as whether doctors told the patient about the decision to discharge them from hospital with a DNACPR.
If not, the document advises them to get the clinician who authorised the order to provide details on why the decision was taken in the first place.
Marie-Anne Peters, whose brother Alistair has epilepsy but no underlying health conditions, was helped by Turning Point to overturn a doctor’s DNR on her brother, which included instructions for him not to be taken to hospital if he fell ill with coronavirus.
Peters, from West Yorkshire, 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 (for life) his whole life and keeps recovering. Why would we give up on him now?”
Julie Bass, chief executive at 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.
“We hope our campaign and the checklist will help support families and care staff in challenging these orders.”
Scott Watkin, LDE Representative Body Co-chair, said: “Decisions on people’s treatment that are based on someone having a learning disability are never OK – even one is too many.
“We’re pleased this guide has been made so people can understand their rights and speak up for themselves or their family member. It’s an important step in helping people challenge poor or illegal decisions. Enough is enough.”
In April, the Care Quality Commission condemned GPs across the country for categorising people who receive care in community settings as not requiring resuscitation if they fall ill with coronavirus.