Advising with empathy and experience

Apology for DNR order.

A hospital trust has apologised for placing a "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order on a patient with Down's Syndrome - and listing his learning difficulties among the reasons for doing so.

The family of Andrew Waters was not consulted or informed and found out only after he was discharged from hospital in Margate, Kent, in 2011.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted breaching his human rights. Mr Waters died in May, aged 53, but the order did not have a bearing.

Mr Waters’ family, who have never sought compensation,  were horrified when, during a hospital stay related to his dementia, staff decided he should not be resuscitated if he developed heart or breathing problems.

Andrew's brother, Michael Waters, said: "For someone to make that decision, without consulting a member of the family or any of his carers, was totally unacceptable.

"No-one has the right to make such a decision and put those reasons down. We were there at hospital and involved in his care at every point. The form was a folded-up piece of paper found in his bag after discharge by his carers. There was nothing wrong with Andrew's health at the time which would have had an effect on resuscitation."

The Waters family have welcomed the trust's admission that it breached his human rights.

Michael Waters added: "It's taken a long time for the hospital to admit this, which we've found hard. All we ever wanted was a simple apology. People with Down's Syndrome deserve the right to live like you and me."

In a statement, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust said: "The trust accepts that it breached its duty to the patient.  We apologise unreservedly for this and the distress caused. Actions have been taken to ensure this does not happen again and the trust has now reached a resolution with the family."

Head of learning disability charity Mencap, Jan Tregelles, described Andrew Waters' case as "unacceptable" and said: "Many families who have lost loved ones to poor NHS care have told us about inappropriate use of DNR where notices have been applied without the knowledge or agreement of families.

"The orders have been applied hastily, in inappropriate situations, solely on the basis of a person's learning disability. This highlights the failures that are a daily reality for many people with a learning disability trying to get good quality healthcare.

"1,200 people with a learning disability are dying avoidably in the NHS every year. The Government must take action to ensure that people with a learning disability get the right healthcare within the NHS and put an end to this scandal of avoidable deaths."