An NHS Trust has issued an apology after it was revealed a ‘do not resuscitate’ was placed on a disabled man’s medical records - because he had Down’s syndrome.
The Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) orders were placed on 51-year-old Andrew Waters’ records without his family’s consent or knowledge.
They only made the shocking discovery after he was discharged from the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, for the second time in 2011.
The reasons for the DNACPR order were stated to be: “Down’s Syndrome, unable to swallow (PEG fed), bed bound, learning difficulties.”
It also said the family were "unavailable” despite their regular attendance to visit Mr Waters, who suffered from dementia and died earlier this year from an unrelated cause.
His brother Michael Waters said: “I still feel very angry about this, especially the fact that my brother’s Down’s syndrome was put as the reason for the DNACPR.
"As a family we are also upset that the doctor concerned has still not offered any personal apology despite this admission from the Trust.”
The East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has admitted wrongdoing and apologised after Mr Waters took legal action through his brother, who acted as his litigation friend.
A Trust spokeswoman said: "The Trust accepts that it breached its duty owed to the patient. We apologise unreservedly for this and the distress caused.
"Actions have been taken to ensure this does not happen again and the Trust has now reached a resolution with the family.”
Merry Varney, from the human rights team at Leigh Day solicitors, said: "The Trust had initially argued that there was no unlawfulness as the DNACPR was not acted upon and because there is no indication that [Andrew] was even aware that the decision had been made or understood its significance.
"Although it is disappointing not to have reached this agreement whilst Andrew was alive, the family welcome the Trust’s acceptance that their actions amounted to a violation of the human rights of a vulnerable adult and hope that no other family will have to endure the nasty surprise of discovering a DNACPR decision has been made unilaterally.”
Jan Tregelles, CEO of learning disabilities charity Mencap, said that “many families” have told them about similar inappropriate uses the Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR).
She added: “1,200 people with a learning disability are dying avoidably in the NHS every year.
“The Government must take action to ensure that people with a learning disability get the right healthcare within the NHS and put an end to this scandal of avoidable deaths.”