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‘Do not resuscitate’ orders given to people with learning disabilities during pandemic

People with learning disabilities have been given ‘do not resuscitate’ orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have caused avoidable deaths.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found “evidence of unacceptable and inappropriate DNACPRs [Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] being made at the start of the pandemic”.

The CQC interim report said: “Reports and studies have shown that there has been a disproportionate impact on a number of groups of people including older people, disabled people […]”

“The blanket and inappropriate use of DNACPR […] could have had an impact, including potentially avoidable death, on older people and disabled people living in care homes, including those with physical and sensory impairments, people with a learning disability or cognitive impairments such as dementia”.

Despite the report, the charity Mencap has said that it has received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told that they would not be resuscitated were they to become ill with COVID-19.

DNACPRs must be applied on an individual basis

While DNACPRs are usually made on an individual basis for people who are too frail or too unwell to benefit from CPR, Mencap reports that some people had been issued with a DNACPR simply because they had a learning disability.

Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support”.

“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out”.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “It is completely unacceptable for ‘do not attempt CPR’ decisions to be applied in a blanket fashion to any group of people. This has never been policy and we have taken action to prevent this from happening”.

Following these reports, and their interim review in November 2020, the CQC has been asked by the Department of Health to undertake a review of the notices issued during the pandemic. Its results will be published later this year.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The apparent discrimination against people with learning disabilities, as found in this case, is shocking. The Department of Health is certainly saying all the right things in terms of its condemning of this practice, but that it happened in the first place and, according to Mencap at least, appears to still be happening to some degree, is atrocious”.

“The CQC report expected later this year should give a better indication of the extent of the problem but if it really is the case that ‘blanket’ use of DNACPR was implemented for people with learning disabilities during the pandemic, it reveals dark attitudes that at least some people hold in the medical and caring professions about the value of such people’s lives. It reveals a culture which fails to value the lives of the most vulnerable in our society”.

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Dear reader

Thanks to the support from people like you, last year a major attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill with two extreme abortion proposals failed, in a major pro-life victory.

Unfortunately, this is not the end for our opposition.

We are currently facing major threats on five separate fronts:

  1. Pro-abortion MP Rupa Huq has brought forward an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to introduce a jail term of up to two years if a pro-lifer offers support or advice to a woman near an abortion clinic. This is a threat to unborn babies and to freedom of speech.
  2. The assisted suicide lobby has brought forward a bill to legalise assisted suicide, which was introduced to the House of Lords on 26 May.
  3. The Northern Ireland Secretary has given himself new powers to force expanded abortion services on Northern Ireland.
  4. The abortion lobby is further exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to attempt to make dangerous ‘DIY’ home abortions available permanently.
  5. The abortion lobby is expected to make another attempt to change abortion law to allow abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.

If these major threats from our opposition are successful, it would be a disaster. Thousands of lives would be lost. 

Fighting both the abortion and assisted suicide lobbies over this period has already made a huge dent in Right To Life UK's limited resources.

To cover this gap and ensure we effectively defeat these proposals during this period, we must raise at least £200,000.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to please give as generously as you can. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a significant difference.

By stopping these threats, YOU can save lives over this coming period.

Will you make a special gift right now to help protect vulnerable lives from these threats?

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