Who decides if you get a ‘do not resuscitate’ order?

I volunteer for a local Village Pantry an hour each week. We collect donated out of date food from local supermarkets in an attempt to reduce food waste in our local area and distribute it to our local residents.

So it was with a smiling face and a full heart, I arrived back home after my stint today.

But unfortunately, that mood totally disintegrated following the midday news programme.

It was announced that NHS England had issued a reminder to primary and secondary care staff that do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) orders should never be put on someone’s record ‘just because’ they have a learning disability, autism or both.

When I heard this, I was genuinely shocked. I had heard of this happening to some elderly people during the beginning of the COVID outbreak but hadn’t heard of it being applied to people with learning disabilities before.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how the pandemic had affected disabled people and how they had coped during the lockdowns. But to think that some of the people I spoke to might have had a ‘do not resuscitate‘ order written for them without their knowledge even, is terrifying.

The BBC news website continued …..

“In a letter sent to CCGs yesterday (4 March), it said that blanket policies, whether based on disability, age or medical condition, are ‘inappropriate’.

This is particularly important in in regard to DNACPR orders, the letter said, which should ‘only ever be made on an individual basis and in consultation with the individual or their family’.

It added: ‘The NHS is clear that people should not have a DNACPR on their record just because they have a learning disability, autism or both. This is unacceptable. The terms “learning disability” and “Down’s syndrome” should never be a reason for issuing a DNACPR order or be used to describe the underlying, or only, cause of death. Learning disabilities are not fatal conditions.”

A DNACPR order for someone with NO underlying health conditions?

A DNACPR order for someone with a learning disability?

A DNACPR order for someone with Down’s Syndrome?

I was genuinely shocked. It was bad enough hearing about elderly people being given those orders but to see examples of fit and healthy young people whose only ‘ailment‘ was to have a learning disability?

I could hardly believe it. To think that a Doctor, someone who had sworn to preserve life and to be on the side of the patient, could do this , WITHOUT even speaking to them first, was horrifying.

The report included evidence from seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), responses from adult social care providers, a public survey and voluntary sector organisations.

Some 2,048 adult social care providers responded to the CQC, and said that 508 DNAR decisions made since 17 March 2020 had not been agreed in discussion with the person, their relative or carer.

Around a third (180) were still in place in December.

Are we seriously at that point where people with physical or learning disabilities are just not wanted? Not valued? Not worthy life or to be revived?

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As someone who became disabled physically at the age of 47, I was genuinely horrified to think that I could ever be in this situation. Did my worth change once I became disabled? This is such a scary thing and if people with learning difficulties didn’t have the support and these were applied, what the hell could happen?

This is obviously something that we, as adults, with a voice and (hopefully) a conscience, desperately need to guard against. These orders, of course, have their place and time but they must be written with the knowledge and consent of the person involved surely?

This whole post makes me think about the value that we as a Western society place on human life; do we value all lives equally? It’s a massive question that a mere blogger cannot answer but I’d like to think that this topic has and hopefully will continue to make us all take a moment and examine our own conscience.

We are all worthy – surely…..?