GPs offered teenage patients with autism and Down’s syndrome ‘do not resuscitate’ orders during routine appointments at the height of the Covid pandemic – leaving some confused and upset, parents reveal

  • Children with learning disabilities are offered “do not revive” orders by their GPs  
  • Bewildered parents worry that their children could be subject to orders without knowing.
  • NHS England sent a reminder to physicians at the start of the pandemic, reminding them about guidance 
  • Although doctors have the ultimate responsibility of issuing Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders, those affected and their families need to be informed.

During the pandemic outbreak, teenagers diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism were given ‘Do not Resuscitate” orders by their GPs.

Parents often believe that their child was ‘discriminated against’. They claim they only were asked questions about it because their learning disability. 

According to reports, the DNR orders were issued in response to ‘concerns over the NHS’. However, it left many families confused and upset.

NHS England sent a letter to doctors last year in response to the pandemic, reminding them that learning disabilities should not be considered a reason for issuing DNRs.

Teenagers with autism and Down's syndrome were offered 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders by their GP practice during the pandemic, it has emerged

It has been revealed that teenage girls with Down syndrome and autism were given ‘Do not Resuscitate” orders by their doctors during the pandemic. 

Shocked parents are now worried their child could have agreed to the order because they may have not ‘understood the question’, according to an investigation by the Daily Telegraph.

DNR orders, also known as DNACPR (Do not attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), are issued to patients who are seriously ill and stop doctors performing CPR.

The guidance states that they must be implemented on an individual basis, after consultation with patients and families regarding end-of-life planning.     

The Department of Health had previously stated that it was unacceptable for DNRs be used in a blanket manner.

This is because it was discovered that doctors gave ‘Do not Resuscitate’ orders to mentally ill and learning disabled patients during the pandemic.

It was stated that at least one of the orders led to death for a patient.

Charities claimed they knew of numerous instances when orders had been ‘inappropriately given’, one claiming it received 20 such requests in one month.  

Jeremy Hunt (chairman of the Commons Health Committee) stated that “This type of hidden prejudice must not be tolerated.” 

Shocked parents are now worried their children could have agreed to the order because they may have not 'understood the question', during routine appointments with their doctor (File image)

Now, shocked parents worry that their children may have given their consent to the order as they might not have understood the question at routine doctor visits.

Last year’s research also revealed that illegal do not resuscitate requests were placed on medical records of people with learning disabilities.

MPs responded by ordering an urgent review into the ‘appalling’ practice, calling for it to be brought to an end by Christmas.

There is concern that the order could be misused to deny lifesaving treatment for those most vulnerable during the pandemic.

Steve Scown of Dimensions UK, a learning disability charity, told the Commons health and social care committee that those his fund helped were ‘not valued as equal members of society’.

He said: ‘We’ve seen that with the number of DNARs (do not attempt resuscitation) that have been placed on people that we support without any consultation with their families or anybody who knows their best interests.

“There’s a problem in the way people with learning disabilities feel valued by society and the system.

‘The fact that they were just placed on files without any meaningful conversation with families or any other professional is just frankly disgraceful.’

NHS England stated at that time, “The core principle is that every person is an individual and must be considered individually.”

‘Blanket policies are inappropriate whether due to ­medical condition, disability, or age.’