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'Do not resuscitate' Down's syndrome patient

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A hospital trust has been forced to apologise for listing a patient’s Down’s syndrome and learning difficulties amongst justifications for a ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) order.

Andrew Waters was admitted to a hospital in Margate in August 2011 in connection with dementia, but staff said that, were he to develop breathing or heart problems, he shouldn’t be resuscitated.

Reasons listed on the notice were: “Downs syndrome, unable to swallow (PEG fed), bed bound, learning difficulties”.

Despite the fact that Mr Waters received daily visits from relatives, his family was never consulted or told about the DNR order.

It was only when Mr Waters’ carers discovered a piece of paper in his belongings, following his discharge from a subsequent hospital stay later the same year, that the family became aware of the DNR notice.

Mr Waters, who loved dancing, drama and swimming, died in May, aged 53. His death was not related to the DNR decision.

His family has never sought compensation, but took advice from a law firm.

‘Unreserved’ apology 

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has now admitted that the notice breached Mr Waters’ human rights.

In a statement, the trust said:

"We apologise unreservedly for this and the distress caused.

"Actions have been taken to ensure this does not happen again and the trust has now reached a resolution with the family."

‘Disgraceful’ decision

Mr Waters’ brother, Michael, welcomed the apology, saying:

"For someone to make that decision, without consulting a member of the family or any one of his carers, was just totally unacceptable.

"No-one has the right to make such a decision in such a disgraceful way... to put those reasons down.

"We were there at hospital and involved in his care at every point.

"The form was a folded-up piece of paper found in his bag after discharge, by his carers.

"There was nothing wrong with Andrew's health at the time which would have had an effect on resuscitation”.

He added:

"People with Down's Syndrome deserve the right to live like you and me."

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Related Coverage:
Hospital sorry for 'do not resuscitate' order on patient with Down's Syndrome (BBC)
Hospital says sorry for do not resuscitate order on man with Down's syndrome (Guardian)