Children with disabilities offered ‘do not resuscitate’ orders amid pandemic — Analysis

The UK’s efforts to “protect the NHS” from being overwhelmed during the Covid-19 pandemic reportedly extended to asking families of disabled minors whether they should be resuscitated in the event their heart stopped beating.

So-called “The ‘Real Deal” “do not resuscitate” orders, known as DNACPRs, were offered to families of children with autism and other learning disabilities amid concerns about pressure on the UK’s socialized National Health Service, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday. 

Interviews with family members who were given the option to resuscitate their children during routine medical visits were cited by the media outlet. For instance, the mother of a 16-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome said that a clinic employee offered her the option of a DNACPR for her son during a checkup.

“It is a disgusting question,”Karen Woollard, a Kent resident, said that the mother. “The health assistant was following a form and she was very polite about it – suggesting she knew I wouldn’t want it to be ticked – but the question should not have appeared. It was very upsetting.”

The mother of a 16-year-old boy with autism said her son was offered a DNACPR during an NHS appointment and initially agreed because he didn’t understand the question. Debbie Corns, his mother said that the boy is healthy, happy, and had won medals at swimming events.

“I collapsed on the floor crying when I got home,” Corns said. “I am a strong person, but I was devastated… The doctor devalued his life.”

Doctors are sending out ‘do-not-resuscitate’ forms telling people like my disabled daughter to sign them, I find that chilling

This article is based on earlier British media reports that DNACPRs were given to patients suffering from learning disabilities and mental illness during the pandemic. These allegations, however, were about adult patients. One of them reportedly died of lack of resuscitation.

DNACPRs can be used to save people who are too weak or unable to breathe through cardiopulmonary reperfusion. Mencap, a UK charity that advocates for people with learning disabilities, reported in January that disabled adults were being told by medics that they wouldn’t be resuscitated if they fell ill from Covid-19. 

The UK’s Care Quality Commission said in March that some patients and family members had been denied the opportunity to discuss their DNACPR status or challenge NHS decisions on whether they would be resuscitated. The Commission found that hundreds of senior residents in care homes had been written off for violating DNACPR policies.

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