MARGATE, UK, September 20, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A 51 year-old man with Down syndrome is suing the hospital where he was issued with a do-not-resuscitate order without either his or his family’s knowledge or consent. The Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, said the man, named AWA in the legal documents, should not be revived in the case of a heart attack or respiratory failure, and listed his disability as the only reason.
His horrified family only found out about the order after he was released from the hospital. The paperwork was found folded up in his belongings, the Daily Mail reports. His lawyers have said the decision for the DNR order was “nothing short of blatant prejudice” and have filed suit in the High Court.
AWA needs constant care and receives his food and hydration through a gastric tube. He was admitted to the hospital September 7th to 26th last year, and received daily visits from his family.
His lawyer, Merry Varney, of Leigh Day & Co solicitors, said, “This is definitely one of the most extreme cases we have seen of a DNR order being not only imposed on a patient without consent or consultation, but to use Down Syndrome and learning difficulties as a reason to withhold life-saving treatment is nothing short of blatant prejudice. If an individual was physically preventing a doctor from administering life-saving treatment to a disabled relative, it would undoubtedly be a matter for the police, yet we see doctors taking this decision without consent or consultation regularly.”
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The hospital has declined to comment publicly on the suit but insisted that they have a “clear and robust policy” on DNR orders. Dr. Neil Martin, medical director for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, told the Telegraph, that their policy “complies fully with national guidance.”
The Daily Telegraph quoted one of AWA’s relatives, “One member of the family at least was in the hospital practically every day and could have been consulted.
“We are bringing this action to highlight the issue and to make sure that something like this cannot happen to another loved son and brother.”
The national guidance on resuscitation is likely dictated by Britain’s Mental Capacity Act 2005, under which pro-life advocates say euthanasia is effectively legalised in hospitals, with or without the consent of patients or their families. Having re-defined the concept of the patient’s “best interests” to include death, the act has created de facto legal euthanasia-by-neglect based on a doctor’s private judgment of a person’s anticipated quality of life.
Prejudice against people with Down and other learning and cognitive disabilities is a growing concern in medical facilities in Britain. Recently, a case came to light in which it was revealed that mentally disabled patients in a private hospital near Bristol had been subject to years of systematic physical and psychological abuse, violent assault, unwarranted medical and physical restraints and neglect for which no oversight was available either from the National Health Service or police. Winterbourne View hospital near Bristol, local police, the NHS, social services and the Care Quality Commission, the national regulator, are all under fire after obvious signs of self-harm and abuse were not investigated. 11 former staffers admitted to the abuse and the private hospital, which is still operating, has claimed it has implemented changes to its procedures.
An investigation by the South Gloucestershire Council and an independent, private review happened only after the BBC revealed the abuse in an undercover television report on Panorama. One of the reports blamed an “unworkable management structure” and “poorly paid and untrained staff” for the abuse. Patients who fled the hospital because of the abuse were simply returned without question by police, and emergency departments who dealt with the damage treated the over 40 cases as unrelated, isolated incidents.
The hospital owners later apologised, saying, “The actions towards people with learning disabilities by former members of staff at Winterbourne View Hospital were both wholly unacceptable and deeply distressing for all concerned and we are truly sorry this happened in one of our services.”
In another case that came to a coroner’s investigation, Thameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, a public hospital in Manchester, is being blamed for the death of a 12 year old girl with learning disabilities. The coroner ruled last month that the doctors and nurses were guilty of neglect that lead to the death of Emma Stones, of septicaemia 16 hours after being admitted.
Emma had cerebral palsy, and no nurse took her blood pressure or monitored her during the night. Staff claimed that they were “too busy” to carry out routine checks or to correctly maintain her medical notes.
Her father, Michael Stones, said, “We keep hearing that she’d have died anyway, and yes, she’s had her problems but they did nothing for her, they didn’t give her a chance. She was a handicapped girl who couldn’t speak for herself and we’re supposed to just swallow it. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
The UK charity for people with learning disabilities, Mencap, said the case highlights the systemic problem in British health care. “The failure to provide basic care to patients like Emma is often underpinned by a view that the lives of people with a learning disability are not worth saving. It is totally unacceptable for health professionals to make a judgment about the quality of someone’s life,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive at Mencap.