‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders

Until it happens to you, it can be very difficult to comprehend and understand the full extent of the far-reaching implications associated with a life threatening tragedy.

Unfortunately I have recently heard rumours that some people feel ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’ orders (“DNARs”) are being inappropriately placed on loved ones’ files while they stay in care homes or hospitals. If this is true it is extremely concerning because it means the wishes of the person receiving care may not be being carried out properly.

A key theme when talking to people is a lack of understanding regarding the scope of a DNAR order both by themselves and the medical practitioners. Simply put, “resuscitation” relates to cardiopulmonary resuscitation – treatment given when someone stops breathing or their heart stops beating. This can involve:

  1. Chest compressions
  2. Electric shocks to stimulate your heart
  3. Equipment designed to oxygenate your body
  4. Giving medicine (designed to restart your heart or breathing) by injection

It does not include ongoing treatment for the management of long terms conditions, pain relief nor artificial nutrition or hydration, as some people are led to believe.

In certain cases, a medical professional may impose a DNAR order, even if the person to whom it relates does not agree. However, this decision should be discussed with the person it impacts and reasons for such a decision given. It must be made on an individual basis and be based on unique health and circumstances. It should not apply simply because the person it relates to is older, or lives in a care home, has a learning disability, autism or dementia etc. If you disagree with a DNAR order imposed on you or a loved one, you are entitled to a second opinion.

If a person lacks mental capacity to discuss a DNAR order that medical professionals may wish to impose, the medical professionals should first check if an Advanced Directive or Lasting Power of Attorney is in place. If they don’t have either of these in place, the doctor should speak with loved ones to gain further information on their wishes and preferences. If they do not have any appropriate friends and family, the doctor should ask an independent mental capacity advocate to represent the person impacted in the decision-making process.

Ann-Marie Matthews is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich Solicitors.

Suffolk Private Client Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk