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Protection Against Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders

Posted on Thursday 19th June 2014 by David Simpson

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders are not something the medical profession likes to talk about very much.David Simpson - Partner, Coles Miller

Leaving patients to die – for whatever reason – seems contrary to everything that healthcare professionals should supposedly stand for.

DNR orders shake one’s already fragile faith in the NHS to the absolute core.

For many the idea of a DNR order is an anathema. To apply one without telling the patient or their family is unthinkable.

So the fact that doctors now have a legal duty to inform patients before applying a DNR order is long overdue. This important safeguard should have been in place from day one.

It follows a judgment by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson in relation to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Previously some doctors had been reluctant to inform patients about DNR orders because of the obvious distress that it could cause. That is no longer a legal justification.

However, doctors might be able to claim that telling the patient about a DNR order would cause them psychological or physical harm.

This is a significant issue. One barrister has already identified the difference between distress and psychological harm as a legal grey area.

Doctors recommending DNR orders have been advised to take contemporaneous notes to protect themselves.

Our clinical negligence legal team advises patients and their relatives to do the same. Write down what healthcare staff tell you. Who said what to whom, when, where and in front of whom.

Read the patient’s notes. Look for DNR orders – or anything else that looks suspicious. If there is anything that you do not understand, question the doctors.

And question the answers they give you. Do not take them at face value.

Your life or the life of a loved one may depend on it.

Are you worried about the medical care that you or your loved ones are receiving? Phone Coles Miller Partner David Simpson on 01202 673011 for specialist legal advice.

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