In a recent article by the BBC, the issue of the use of DNR (do not resuscitate) forms as an excuse not to provide life-saving care has been an eye-opener for many, particularly those with elderly parents in care homes.
The article exposed a case where an Eastbourne care home cancelled the ambulance called for a resident who was choking on a piece of fruit simply because he had a DNR form. His daughter wants to raise awareness of this practise and to let people know that DNRs are not legally binding.
DNR stands for ‘do not resuscitate’, DNAR ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ and DNACPR, ‘do not attempt cardio pulmonary resuscitation’. These decisions are agreed by a person with their family and doctors most usually in cases involving dementia or life-threatening illnesses. They can be reviewed regularly, particularly if a person has a deteriorating condition, but in general, they are technically nothing more than personal wishes.
The DNR form is put with one’s medical records and also kept with the care home. In the case highlighted above, the resident’s DNR plan was in relation to his heart condition; should he suffer cardiac arrest, his wishes were that medical staff should not try to resuscitate. His DNR should not have been used as an instruction to ignore any type of medical help when required.
What are my options?
You could make your DNR legally binding by writing an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT), also called a ‘living will’. Note that an advance decision is not the same as an advance statement. An advance statement is not legally binding and only covers one’s wishes as to health and social care so it cannot be used to refuse medical treatment.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for health and welfare is a legal document which gives someone you trust permission to make health and care decisions for you should you lose mental capacity. For example, they might make the decision on your medical care or where you should live.
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If you want to find out more, do not hesitate to call us and one of our private client lawyers will be more than happy to help.
Please note the above is for information purposes only and is intended to be a short summary. It should not be treated as a comprehensive guide and should not be acted on without qualified legal advice.