The family of a 51-year old Down’s Syndrome man has begun legal proceedings on his behalf against an NHS Trust which issued a ‘do not resuscitate’ order citing his disability.
The order was issued during the man’s stay in a Margate hospital a year ago. East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has denied claims that the order amounted to “blatant discrimination”, insisting that they followed all relevant professional guidance.
The order was issued without the knowledge of either the man, identified only as AWA, or his family. It cited the following as reasons not to resuscitate him: “Down’s syndrome, unable to swallow (PEG fed), bed bound, learning difficulties”.
AWA also suffers from dementia and has a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG tube fitted to assist with feeding.
AWA’s family say they visited him in hospital almost every day of his stay and so were fully available to discuss resuscitation with the hospital.
A relative said: “Until his dementia started three years ago, he had a really hectic social life. He loved parties, discos and going to church. He was looked after at home for as long as possible, but then we got him into a nice care home…He was admitted to hospital for a fortnight. When he was discharged, one of the carers at his home was unpacking his bag and found the DNR form, to their horror. We weren’t aware of the DNR until then. We were very angry and quite distressed.”
The family’s lawyer said: “This is definitely one of the most extreme cases we have seen of a DNR order being imposed on a patient without consent or consultation. To use Down’s syndrome and learning difficulties as a reason to withhold lifesaving treatment is nothing short of blatant discrimination.”