UK's High Court to investigate do-not-resuscitate orders

Michael Cook
11 Nov 2012
Reproduced with Permission

The UK's High Court is to hold a full judicial review of do-not-resuscitate orders in February. It is currently investigating stinging allegations that doctors in the National Health Service let patients die without seeking consent from them or their carers.

In one, the mother of a 28-year-old man with cerebral palsy is suing the hospital where he died. Elaine Winspear claims that a doctor unilaterally gave a DNR order and her son Carl died of pneumonia. "It seems the doctor assumed Carl did not have a quality of life," she complained. "He had a better quality of life than you or I do."

In the other case, David Tracey is suing over the death of his wife Elaine. She fractured her neck in a car accident two weeks after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Doctors placed a DNR order on her medical notes but removed it after her relatives objected. But another order was written in and she died two days later. "At one point, she did say they were trying to get rid of her, and I didn't believe her. I just said, 'don't be so silly', which proved to be a mistake," he told the court. The hospital denies the family's account of events and says that it did seek Mrs Tracey's consent.

The High Court will try to clarify whether there is a legal duty to inform patients whether a DNR order has been written on their notes and whether they have any right to be consulted about it.