‘We cannot tell the elderly their life isn’t worth living’

22 July 2020

The Department of Health is to issue new guidance on ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) forms, following concerns over blanket use of them in care homes during the coronavirus crisis.

Numerous examples of unlawful or inappropriate orders being applied to patients during the current pandemic have led to accusations of widespread systemic breaches of patients’ human rights.

But after the government was threatened with a judicial review into the failure to produce clear and consistent guidance, the government has announced that it will be releasing two documents to ensure that patients and their families understand how DNR decisions are made.

DNRs require transparent decision-making

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that DNR decisions be taken in consultation with a patient or their family if necessary, and that patients know well in advance how decisions will be made and what to do in a disagreement.

In a legal letter to the government, Kate Masters provided examples of DNRs being made without any consultation and said concerns about blanket DNRs were a result of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s decision to delegate resuscitation policies to a local level during the coronavirus outbreak and there being no clear guidance to protect patients’ rights.

Mr Hancock had initially handed responsibility for resuscitation policies to local health bodies, which Ms Masters explained could be used to issue blanket DNRs to apply to whole subset of people over a certain age or with certain medical conditions.

Ms Masters was involved in a successful judicial review of the DNR decision-making process in 2014. The Court of Appeal found that there is a legal duty for hospitals to consult with patients before applying a DNR notice on their records, ruling that a hospital breached Ms Master’s mother’s human rights by placing a DNR notice on her record without telling her.

Protecting the lives of the elderly

The Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska spoke to Russia Today about protecting the lives of the elderly, ensuring they felt under no pressure to prematurely end their lives. Taking part in a debate about assisted suicide and euthanasia of elderly patients, he stated that studies have shown up to 98% of elderly people “if given the proper bedside manner, if shown that they are worth something, would want to live. So as a compassionate society, we should be making people feel loved rather than feeling like a burden, so much so that they would want to be put to death.”

The European Court of Human Rights does not set out the right to die, said Roger. Rather, it sets out to protect life.

It is important to be transparent about the decision-making process; if not, lives are needlessly put at risk, Roger argued. For example, the laws surrounding euthanasia in the Netherlands have gone from bad to worse, with more people’s lives being put at risk:

“Any time there is a debate about assisted suicide or euthanasia, the opponent of assisted suicide always points to the Netherlands because there it has gone from bad to worse. Dutch doctors have gone from euthanising the terminally ill to the chronically ill, to people with serious disabilities, to the emotionally and mentally ill, and now to just being elderly. … Look at all of these efforts we’ve made with Covid to keep the elderly community safe; why would we now throw that out the window and say, ‘at 75, your life is no longer worth living if you don’t want to live it.’ Let’s work with the elderly community to make them feel wanted, to make their lives better.”

22 July 2020
Russia Today

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