UK citizens with learning disabilities will not be resuscitated if they contract COVID-19
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LONDON, England, February 15, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – People in the U.K. with learning disabilities have been told they will not receive resuscitation if they contract COVID-19, according to learning disability charity Mencap.
Last November, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Health Department’s regulatory body, launched an investigation into “Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic,” following similar concerns about “the blanket application of DNACPR decisions, that is applying them to groups of people rather than on an assessment of each person’s individual circumstances, and about making decisions without involving the person concerned.”
The review discovered “evidence of unacceptable and inappropriate DNACPRs being made at the start of the pandemic.”
“Reports and studies have shown that there has been a disproportionate impact on a number of groups of people including older people, disabled people,” according to the review.
“The blanket and inappropriate use of DNACPR and poor individual clinical decision making must be seen in the context of decisions and steps that limit older and disabled people’s access to hospital, including to critical care, for necessary treatment for COVID-19 and other conditions.”
The CQC report found, “This could have had an impact, including potentially avoidable death, on older people and disabled people living in care homes, including those with physical and sensory impairments, people with a learning disability or cognitive impairments such as dementia.”
Despite the CQC’s investigative report, Mencap received complaints in January from disabled people who had been told they would not be resuscitated in the event of becoming ill with COVID-19.
Though DNACPRs are normally intended for frail or severely unwell people who would likely receive no benefit from a harsh CPR regimen, assessed on an individual basis between doctor and patient, Mencap said that some people were being given the order for having a learning disability and nothing more.
Mencap’s chief executive Edel Harris said, “Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support”.
“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before COVID died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care echoed Harris’ words, saying: “It is completely unacceptable for ‘do not attempt CPR’ decisions to be applied in a blanket fashion to any group of people. This has never been policy and we have taken action to prevent this from happening.”
The Department of Health subsequently “asked the CQC to undertake a review of [DNACPR] notices issued during the pandemic.” The CQC is expected to return this report later in the year.
The “inappropriate” use of DNACPRs comes despite NHS England sending a letter last April to care staff to clarify that “[t]he 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.”
Catherine Robinson, a spokeswoman for pro-life defense group Right to Life U.K., expressed dismay at Mencap’s report detailing blanket DNACPR orders: “The apparent discrimination against people with learning disabilities, as found in this case, is shocking.”
Robinson shared her disappointment in the healthcare system, pointing the finger at the government ministers and, indeed, healthcare professionals responsible for allowing such a discrimination to take place: “The Department of Health is certainly saying all the right things in terms of its condemning of this practice, but that it happened in the first place and, according to Mencap at least, appears to still be happening to some degree, is atrocious”.
“The CQC report expected later this year should give a better indication of the extent of the problem but if it really is the case that ‘blanket’ use of DNACPR was implemented for people with learning disabilities during the pandemic, it reveals dark attitudes that at least some people hold in the medical and caring professions about the value of such people’s lives. It reveals a culture which fails to value the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.”
At the same time as Britain is seeing blanket DNACPRs placed on the disabled, Canada’s parliament is en route to passing legislation which would expand the currently accepted criteria for euthanasia to people who are not actually dying, but diagnosed with a non-life-threatening condition, including permanent disability.
Bill C-7, which has already passed its first reading in the House, has been criticized as affording easier access to end one’s life through the country’s Medical Assistance in Dying program than there are helps for living with disabilities.
Amendments to the bill have already passed in the Senate this week which will allow for euthanasia of people with mental illness and for “advance directives,” the latter case being a pre-emptive instruction for people to be euthanized should they become incompetent in the future, as in Alzheimer’s dementia.