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Elderly being pressured into signing ‘Do not resuscitate’ forms, charities warn

Care organisations have published an open letter calling for the policy to be abolished in order to protect ‘people’s fundamental human rights’.

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Elderly people are being pressured into signing ‘Do not resuscitate’ forms, charities have warned (Joe Giddens/PA)

Elderly people are being pressured into signing ‘Do not resuscitate’ forms, charities have warned (Joe Giddens/PA)

Elderly people are being pressured into signing ‘Do not resuscitate’ forms, charities have warned (Joe Giddens/PA)

Aged care organisations have warned that elderly people across the nation are being pressured into signing “Do not resuscitate” (DNR) forms.

Following a string of incidents in recent weeks, elderly care charities including Age UK and Independent Age have published an open letter calling for the policy to be abolished in order to protect “people’s fundamental human rights”.

“Many of the people affected have experienced fear and anxiety, and feel that their lives and wishes do not matter,” the letter states.

“This is shameful and unacceptable.

“Whether or not to sign a (DNR) form is an individual’s decision, and they have a right to make that decision without feeling pressurised.”

Difficult and painful decisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead, but these must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the risks and benefits, and people’s own wishes, through honest discussions between patients, doctors and families

The letter comes a week after a joint statement was released by healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission, the British Medical Association, the Care Provider Alliance and the Royal College of General Practitioners, warning against the practice.

“It is unacceptable for advance care plans, with or without DNR form completion, to be applied to groups of people of any description,” they said.

Age UK said one 85-year-old woman was recently called by her GP and asked to decide whether, should she come down with coronavirus symptoms, she wanted to go to hospital or sign a DNR form.

Last week, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said no-one should be forced into signing DNR forms after an 86-year-old woman agreed to sign one following a request from her GP surgery.

The open letter states: “Difficult and painful decisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead, but these must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the risks and benefits, and people’s own wishes, through honest discussions between patients, doctors and families.

“We do not under-estimate the significant pressures being faced by all staff working across our health and social care sectors at this difficult time, but it is crucial that we continue to protect people’s fundamental human rights.

“It would be completely unacceptable to abandon these rights in favour of taking blanket, discriminatory decisions.”

PA