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Antrim man claims Do Not Resuscitate order placed on medical file at hospital without his knowledge

Published 23/08/2016

The Trust refutes Neil Birnie's claims. Pic: BBC
The Trust refutes Neil Birnie's claims. Pic: BBC

A Co Antrim man has told of his horror after he claimed a do not resuscitate notice (DNR) was placed on his medical file without his knowledge.

Neill Birnie suffers from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and is paralysed from the neck down.

It was in 2014 when the 48-year-old was admitted to Antrim Area Hospital a total of three times, he discovered a Do Not Resuscitate order had been put on his medical file.

He said this was without his nor his sister's consent - however the Northern Trust has strongly refuted this and said there was a conversation before the DNR notice was implemented.

Mr Birnie is unable to talk and communicates through a computer.

He told the BBC: "My reaction to the life-threatening imposition of the do not resuscitation notice on my admission file has been profound.

"I've had my mortality held in front of me and then casually tossed to one side

"Let me assure you the lights are on and I am definitely at home."

"We all need to be treated with understanding. Those as us classified as vulnerable adults maybe more than most."

The DNR order means that medical staff will not attempt to bring a patient back to life if they stop breathing or their heart stops.

Guidelines issued by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing say the DNR orders should only be implemented after a discussion with patients or their family.

Mr Birnie said at no time did he or his sister grant permission for the notice to be placed on his file.

He made an official complaint to the Trust saying they do not accept that the DNR was placed on his file in advance of him being admitted.

However the Trust said they explained in a letter to Mr Birnie that they had spoken to his next of kin.

In a statement to the BBC, a spokeswoman for the Northern Health Trust confirmed the notice was placed on Mr Birnie's file in January 2014.

However they said it followed a conversation with the patient.

The Trust said: "The decision to implement a DNR is a medical one, which is taken in cases where medical professionals feel that if a person's medical condition at that time causes their heart to stop, resuscitation attempts would be futile and therefore not in their best interests in providing a dignified death.

"This was discussed with Mr Birnie initially and was put in place following a conversation with his next of kin who indicated that they had talked it over with Mr Birnie and agreed with the decision taken.

"A DNR notice is reviewed and, if felt appropriate, renewed on a daily basis. There is currently no DNR on Mr Birnie's file and his treatment remains unaffected."

In a further statement to the Belfast Telegraph the Northern Trust explained the decision making process.

What is a DNR?

The decision to implement a DNR is a medical one which is taken in cases where medical professionals feel that if a person’s medical condition at that time causes their heart to stop, resuscitation attempts would be futile and therefore not in their best interests in providing a dignified death.

Good practice dictates that medical professionals should discuss with the individual or their next of kin in order to gain their assent.

A DNR notice is reviewed and, if felt appropriate, renewed on a daily basis. "

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