NHS Denied Woman With Down Syndrome Life-Saving Coronavirus Treatment: Report

Doctor in blue uniform wearing a stethoscope and small red heart badge pin, detail closeup, GP or cardiologist in the office, sitting at the desk, Coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic outbreak crisis
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A British woman with Down Syndrome was refused life-saving emergency medical treatment by the NHS due to her disability, a report has claimed.

Britain’s socialised National Health Service refused to provide treatment to Susan Sullivan, 56, who had Down syndrome, citing her disability as grounds to deny her the medical treatment she needed, which resulted in her subsequent death, it is claimed in a Sky News report.

Susan caught coronavirus in March 2020 — around the time of the UK’s first lockdown — and had varying levels of illness for about 10 days. When Susan was admitted to hospital, her parents were not allowed to be present and were only permitted to contact her by telephone.

Ida Sullivan, Susan’s mother recalled that she was upset when speaking on the phone saying, “As soon as she heard my voice she said ‘Mummy, Mummy I don’t like it”.

“I never saw her again,” said Mr Sullivan.

Susan repeatedly removed her oxygen mask in hospital as she found it uncomfortable, and with her family denied access, the mask’s importance was not explained to Susan in a way that she could properly understand, the Sky News report claimed. Mrs Sullivan insists that had she been allowed to be with her daughter this issue could have been overcome.

Just under 26 hours after Susan was admitted to hospital, she died.

The death took Susan’s family by surprise as they were initially “over the moon” that she was placed on a ward “rather than intensive care”.

It was only after they recovered Susan’s medical notes, that her family realised she had been denied access to the intensive care unit, because of “Down Syndrome” and “cardiac co-morbidities” (heart problems), it was claimed.

Speaking to Breitbart, Rachael Ross MBE, Chair of Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association and Founding Officer of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group called for the NHS to be held to account over their treatment of people with Down syndrome.

“This is a tragic case, but sadly we know it is not an isolated one. Being denied critical care based solely on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or learning disability is wholly unacceptable, and when these incidents do occur, they must be fully investigated, and those responsible held to account”, she said.

“Much more needs to be done to protect the lives of these individuals when they are at their most vulnerable and to educate the front-line health professionals who hold these precious lives in their hands”, she continued.

Britain’s NHS has faced increased criticism over their treatment of people with disabilities — particularly those with intellectual disabilities — throughout the pandemic.

Reports have surfaced that NHS doctors had been giving or offering both children and adults with learning disabilities ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’ (DNAR) notices, during the pandemic in an alleged effort to ease pressure on the socialised health service, presumably by eliminating the need to treat some to prioritise others.

DNAR 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 have an incurable condition, such as terminal cancer, or are extremely frail.

In both instances the NHS denying individuals intensive care, or assigning them a DNAR notice purely for the reason of disability, is potentially illegal in Britain, as it may be in breach of the Equalities Act of of 2010, which protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in healthcare.

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, in a statement released in December 2020.

So far there have been no prosecutions of medical staff for refusing to treat individuals with disabilities or for the use of DNAR orders.

It is also unknown how many people with learning disabilities have faced discrimination from the NHS over the pandemic, as there are over “1.5 million people with a learning disability” in the United Kingdom and medical records are classified. Alongside this, individuals with learning disabilities in some cases may struggle to communicate discrimination they faced to their family or carer, or may not fully understand that they have experienced it.



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