Kids with Learning Disabilities Offered ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders by UK Health Service During Pandemic

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British children with learning disabilities were offered ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ orders during the pandemic — for no reason other than the child having a learning disability, families believe.

Britain’s socialised National Health Service (NHS) attempted to give children with learning disabilities ‘do not resuscitate’ notices, knowns as DNARs or DNRs, during the pandemic, The Telegraph reports.

This is a development from earlier reports that adults with learning disabilities and mental illnesses had also received DNAR notices — which potentially led to the death of at least one individual.

‘Do not attempt resuscitation’ notices are orders for healthcare staff to withhold medical treatment from a patient if they look as if they are about to die, such as if their heart stops, and are typically given to people who are extremely frail or have an incurable condition, such as terminal cancer.

A patient can either request a DNAR or a doctor can assign one to a patient without their permission. As the NHS website puts it: “You must be told that a DNACPR form will be/has been completed for you, but a doctor does not need your consent.”

The Telegraph has exposed that GPs (General Practitioners) asked children with learning disabilities if they wanted ‘do not resuscitate orders’ in an alleged effort to ease pressure on the socialised health service, presumably by eliminating the need to treat some people with learning disabilities.

Debbie Corns, whose son Oliver has a learning disability and congenital classic autism, spoke to the Telegraph and alleges that her son was asked if he wanted a DNAR notice by a GP and he initially agreed, as he did not understand what it meant.

Ms Corns said she corrected her son, who was just 15 at the time, and made sure that the GP did not give Oliver a DNAR notice.

Several days later Ms Corns with her husband asked her son Oliver: “If your heart stopped, would you like the doctors to try to save your life or would you like to die?”.

Corns recounts that “He [Oliver] went upstairs for 20 minutes, but before leaving for school he looked at my husband and said, ‘Dad, save my life.’

“He said it several times over the next few days. It broke our hearts. With the right language, support and time, he did understand. He had time to think about it. When the doctor asked, he couldn’t consent properly.”

Ms Corns said that “the doctor devalued [Oliver’s] life”. She also alleged that Oliver would not have been safe with the NHS if she had not been present: “imagine he went to hospital after an accident by himself. We would have lost control of his healthcare and they might not have resuscitated him,” she said.

The GP practice has since apologised and claimed that the doctor who asked about the DNAR notice did so in error.

Another parent told The Telegraph that she had been asked if she wanted a DNAR for her 16-year-old son with Down’s Syndrome, branding the question “disgusting” and “very upsetting”.

DNAR notices if given because a patient has a learning disability may be in breach of the Equalities Act of 2010, which protects people with disabilities against discrimination in healthcare.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020 NHS England also wrote to medical professionals reminding them that learning disabilities “should never be a reason for issuing a DNAR order”.

Sonia Deleon, 58, died of a heart attack in April 2020. No CPR was attempted due to a DNAR order being in a place with the reason on the form being her learning disability. The NHS has claimed that this was “an error” and that “frailty” and “multiple co-morbidities” were the actual reason for her DNAR order.

“When they gave my sister the DNAR, they were basically writing her off”, said Sally-Rose Cyrille, Delon’s sister. She said it was “like they were saying, ‘she’s got a learning disability, why are we even bothering?’”

In December 2020, Britain’s healthcare watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said that there was “evidence of unacceptable and inappropriate” use of Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) orders from NHS doctors during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to avoidable deaths.

It is unknown how many disabled people were given these notices. Over “1.5 million people with a learning disability” live in the United Kingdom and medical records are classified, meaning it is unlikely that the full extent of this scandal will ever be exposed.

When this shameful practise first came to light in October last year, top learning disability charity Mencap released a statement asserting that people with learning disabilities had “a right to equal access to healthcare just like anyone else”.

Mencap also condemned the “potentially unlawful use” of DNR notices for “fit and healthy people with a learning disability” during the pandemic, saying it was “discriminatory and quite literally put their lives in danger”.

Responding to a question from Baroness Angela Browning in the House of Lords about the use of DNAR notices during the pandemic, Lord James Bethell, while in office as Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, on the 1st of October 2020 stated:

“My Lords, the department [of health] is very clear that the blanket use of DNACPR and DNR is unacceptable. An agreement to a DNACPR is an individual decision and should involve the person concerned or, where the person lacks capacity, their family, carer, guardian or any other legally recognised advocate.”

When specifically asked by Baroness Browning about people with learning disabilities being given DNARs without their permission Lord Bethell said it was “completely unacceptable for any group of people to have blanket DNACPR provisions apply to them”.

So far there have been no prosecutions of medical staff for the use of DNAR orders given for the sole reason of disability to people with learning disabilities, however.

Using DNAR orders on the disabled to “take pressure off of the NHS” has been labelled as “eugenics” and likened to Nazi Germany’s T4 programme of involuntary euthanasia for disabled people by disability advocate and writer Gus Alexiou.

The ‘Aktion T4’ programme was used by the German National Socialists to murder over 70,000 children and adults with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities were starved to death, gassed, shot, given lethal injections, and fatal overdoses of drugs by medical staff.

The National Socialists justified their T4 programme by branding people with disabilities as “useless eaters” and claimed they were a burden on the state and a waste of resources.

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