Coronavirus: Doctors Pressuring Senior Citizens to Sign Do Not Resuscitate Forms

Nurse consoling her elderly patient by holding her hands
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Charities have condemned reports that doctors are pressuring senior citizens into signing do not resuscitate (DNR) forms.

Age UK, Independent Age, and other charities and regional organisations have condemned reports of “shocking examples” of older, vulnerable, and critically ill people “who have felt pressurised into signing Do Not Attempt CPR forms”.

The letter signed on Monday continued: “Alongside this, many of the people affected have experienced fear and anxiety, and feel that their lives and wishes do not matter. This is shameful and unacceptable.

“Whether or not to sign a DNA-CPR form is an individual’s decision, and they have a right to make that decision without feeling pressurised,” the charities said.

They added: “We do not underestimate the significant pressures being faced by all staff working across our health and social care sectors at this difficult time, but it is crucial that we continue to protect people’s fundamental human rights. It would be completely unacceptable to abandon these rights in favour of taking blanket, discriminatory decisions.”

The intervention came after the BBC reported last week that elderly care homes in Brighton and Hove, southern England, are concerned that GPs are pressuring their charges into signing DNRs. The broadcaster saw documents sent by the NHS’s Clinical Commissioning Group to the area’s GPs effectively telling them that older people may not be admitted to hospital with coronavirus and that they should check that care homes have the requisite DNRs.

The document even included a script for doctors to use with patients and their families. One such line read, “frail elderly people do not respond to the sort of intensive treatment required for the lung complications of coronavirus, and indeed the risk of hospital admission may be to exacerbate pain and suffering”.

“We may, therefore, recommend that in the event of coronavirus infection, hospital admission is undesirable,” it added.

One home care manager said that a GP told her, “none of your residents aged over 75 will be admitted to hospital”.

There were also reports last week that a GP surgery in Wales was forced to apologise after it sent vulnerable patients, such as those who are suffering from untreatable conditions, letters offering to complete DNR forms in case their condition worsened due to coronavirus

The letter claimed that there were “several benefits” to signing away your right to medical intervention, including allowing ambulances to focus on dealing with the “young and fit who have a greater chance” of survival. The letter also guilted patients into considering the threat they pose in transmitting the Chinese virus to medics or family members if they receive CPR.

One LLynfi surgery patient said of the letter she received: “It not only greatly upset me but my family and close friends. It was like having my death warrant being sent by the grim reaper. It made me feel worthless. I’ve lived with cancer for eight years, and I want to live another couple of years. I’m not digging my grave yet.”

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