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Hospital apologises after issuing a DNR order on man with Downs Syndrome

It was reported in early December by the Guardian newspaper that East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been forced to apologise for placing a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) order on a patient with Downs Syndrome if he developed heart or breathing problems.@  Andrew Waters – who has passed away since the incident due to an unrelated health issue - had been discharged from a stay in hospital related to care for his dementia, when carers at his residential home found the order on a folded up piece of paper in his hospital bag. The reasons given were “Downs [sic] syndrome, unable to swallow (PEG fed), bed bound, learning difficulties.” His family were not informed, despite visiting him every day and were outraged to find out in such a manner, especially when it emerged this was actually the second time the order had been placed in the course of Mr Waters’ care.  Mr Waters’ brother, Michael Waters, was interviewed by the BBC and said “there was nothing wrong with Andrew's health at the time which would have had an effect on resuscitation…People with Down's Syndrome deserve the right to live like you and me." @

The head of learning disability charity Mencap is quoted in the same article and provides the following worrying explanation and conclusion concerning the protection of the most vulnerable members of society when it comes to end of life issues:

“"Many families who have lost their loved ones to poor care within the NHS have told us about the inappropriate use of DNR. There have been circumstances where these notices have been applied without the knowledge or agreement of families. And the orders have also been applied hastily, in inappropriate situations, solely on the basis of a person's learning disability. This highlights the failures of care that are a daily reality for many people with a learning disability trying to get access to good quality healthcare. 1,200 people with a learning disability are dying avoidably in the NHS every year.”