Widower learned in wife's final days Do Not Resuscitate order had been made without consent

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

Alan Barker said he was "livid" upon learning in his wife Lorraine's final days that a Do Not Resuscitate order had been made for her.

The couple had been together for more than 20 years but in December, she contracted Covid-19 and died on Christmas Eve.

During her final days in hospital, Alan was allowed by her bedside. It was there he discovered that a Do Not Resuscitate order had been placed on Lorraine's medical record by staff without the family's knowledge or agreement.

He told ITV News: "I was absolutely livid. The position we both adopted was: try everything to keep us alive because we're fighting not just for ourselves but for our two disabled children.

"Everyone has a right to fight in the hope that there's a recovery."

Do Not Resuscitate orders instruct health staff not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the patient.

Lorraine is just one of hundreds of patients who had Do Not Resuscitate orders put on them without their consent.

A review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that in the last 12 months, 508 of almost 10,000 Do Not Resuscitate orders had been taken without the agreement of the person, their relative or a carer.

The regulator found a "worrying picture", poor communication, poor record keeping and a lack of scrutiny over decisions, potentially inflated by the "unprecedented pressure" of the pandemic on healthcare providers. But it said these were decisions that may have breached people's human rights.

Older people, dementia patients and those with learning disabilities are those more likely to have Do Not Resuscitate orders automatically applied. And while the CQC found these decisions had gone up by a third since the pandemic began, concerns around consent predate the pandemic.

Stella Clarke told ITV News of how she was told by a GP that they would add a Do Not Resuscitate order to her records.

When receiving a call to discuss a routine eye test on April 3 last year, she was asked what she would do if she caught Covid – to which she answered she would stay at home. GP staff then told her they would add Do Not Resuscitate order to her name.

She asked for that not to happen and the surgery has confirmed no such order was given, as she requested.

“I was so taken aback,” she said.

"I don't think old people have ever been valued," she added.

Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke said: "Last year, everything was chaotic and moving at pace and people were overwhelmed with guidance, everything changing.

"But none of that should've stopped these decisions happening. It's so important to talk with patients, explore resuscitation matters with them."

Dan Scorer, from Mencap, a charity for people with learning disabilities, said: "It's wrong and it's unlawful. This is an issue that has affected people with a learning disability before the pandemic where health staff have made assumptions about people's quality of life and put Do Not Resuscitate orders on them without involving them or their families, thinking for some reason that's in their best interests."