Hospital ‘sorry’ for DNR order on Down’s syndrome man

A hospital trust that listed Down’s syndrome and learning difficulties among reasons not to resuscitate a patient has issued an apology for the “distress” caused.

The family of Andrew Waters took legal action against East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust after they discovered by accident that on two occasions in 2011 a ‘Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation’ (DNACPR) order had been placed on his file.

Despite regularly visiting Mr Waters in hospital when he was admitted for problems related to his dementia, neither his family nor any of his carers were informed of the order, which had stated that the family were “unavailable”.

‘Unacceptable’

In addition to “Down’s syndrome”, the reasons for the DNACPR notice were listed as “bed bound”, “learning difficulties” and “unable to swallow”.

Mr Waters died aged 53 in May this year, for reasons unconnected to the order.

His brother Michael said the hospital’s actions were “just totally unacceptable”.

‘Right to live’

“No-one has the right to make such a decision in such a disgraceful way”, he said

“People with Down’s Syndrome deserve the right to live like you and me”, he commented.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust has now apologised and admitted that it breached Mr Waters’ human rights.

‘Distress’

“We apologise unreservedly for this and the distress caused.

“Actions have been taken to ensure this does not happen again and the trust has now reached a resolution with the family.”

The lawyer acting for Mr Waters’ family, Merry Varney, explained that initially the Trust had argued there was “no unlawfulness” as the order was not acted upon and the patient was probably unaware of the decision or its significance.

Vulnerable

She said: “Although it is disappointing not to have reached this agreement whilst Andrew was alive, the family welcome the Trust’s acceptance that their actions amounted to a violation of the human rights of a vulnerable adult and hope that no other family will have to endure the nasty surprise of discovering a DNACPR decision has been made unilaterally”.

A case last year, also fought by Varney, established in law that doctors must consult and inform patients about Do Not Resuscitate orders.

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