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A civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King was allowed to die at home from an overdose of prescription drugs after paramedics did not take her to hospital amid legal wrangling over a printed DNR order, an inquest heard.
Dr Nona Ferdon, a Harvard educated psychologist, was found unconscious but "still breathing" at her residence in Minsterworth, Gloucestershire, after taking a toxic combination of multiple prescription drugs. She died three days later.
An inquest heard Dr Ferdon's daughter Sharon Springel was instructed by an ambulance operator to start CPR on her mother but said that it would be against her mother's wishes.
The 93-year-old was a supporter of Dignitas, the Swiss-based assisted suicide clinic, and repeatedly told her family she did not want to be resuscitated in order to prolong her life.
Paramedics from South West Ambulance Service visited the home prior to her death to discuss the "unusual situation" with Ms Springel and sought legal advice after one female official suspected the DNR was invalid, the inquest was told.
Coroner Roland Wooderson told the hearing: "When the ambulance crew arrived they gave her mother oxygen.
"But Ms Springel felt absolutely obliged to follow her mother's wishes and there was a lengthy discussion between the family and the paramedics and their legal teams.
"She said her mother had made it known to family and health professionals that she did not want intervention and there was a very specific DNR statement in place."
The inquest heard Gemma Abbott of South West Ambulance Service was called to Dr Ferdon's home on March 11, after Ms Springel found her mother and dialled 999.
She was presented with a Dignitas booklet and a ReSPECT form which showed Dr Ferdon's intention not to be resuscitated.
The ReSPECT document outlines personalised emergency care recommendations for patients if they are unable to make or express choices and have been adopted at NHS hospitals in Gloucestershire since October 2019.
Ms Springel said this form was filled in with the assistance of a healthcare worker in November 2020, following an evaluation of her mother's physical and mental capacity.
However, Ms Abbott suspected the form was invalid and contacted her operations director and other senior colleagues for advice.
A senior manager and a critical care consultant later agreed no further measures should be carried out to prolong Dr Furdon's life despite her GP advocating she be taken to hospital. Dr Ferdon died at home on March 14.
A narrative verdict was recorded. Speaking after the inquest, Ms Springel said her mother’s intentions were "very clear" and that she wanted to die at home.
The Telegraph contacted South West Ambulance Service for comment.
As a clinical psychologist, Dr Ferdon practised for 50 years in the US and the UK, and was also a prominent civil rights activist, joining Martin Luther King in Alabama as he marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
Ellie Ball, Media and Campaigns Manager for Dignity in Dying, said: "We are saddened to hear of the death of Dr Nona Ferdon, who ended her own life earlier this year at the age of 93, an inquest has heard. We extend our sincere condolences to family, friends and local community.
"While Dr Ferdon was not terminally ill and therefore would not be eligible to request an assisted death under the Assisted Dying Bill due for debate in the House of Lords next month, such legislation would enable more open, honest communication between all individuals, families and healthcare professionals about people's concerns and priorities for the end of life, enabling them to be referred for further support if appropriate.
"The current blanket ban stifles communication and forces people to resort to drastic measures in secret, often without a full awareness of other options or support available to them."