Fight over Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders forces government climb down amid Covid-19 pandemic

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New guidance for patients and their families on Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders has been issued by the government after a threat of legal action.

Kate Masters instructed law firm Leigh Day to take the Government to court over its failure to provide consistent advice on Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders (DNARs) in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said she was concerned that the orders were being imposed without consultation with patients or their families.

A successful judicial review was brought by Ms Masters’ late father David Tracey in 2014, which established that a notice issued to his late wife Janet Tracey without her or her family’s knowledge, was a violation of human rights.

The Government has now said it will publish two documents to ensure patients and families understand how DNAR decisions are made in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

One document will be for patients and their families setting out matters such as the right to be involved in the decision and how to request a review, while the other is for NHS staff.



A woman has challenged DNAR orders

In her legal letter to the Government and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Ms Masters provided examples of DNARs being made without consultation and said concerns about blanket DNARs were a result of the health secretary delegating policies to a local level during the pandemic.

Initially, according to law firm Leigh Day, the Government maintained this was a matter for local health bodies, before accepting after legal correspondence that clearer guidance was needed.

But the Government has now committed to taking action, the firm added.

Ms Masters said: “I am really pleased that, following correspondence with my legal team, Matt Hancock has informed us that he will be issuing patient-facing information on the NHS website.”

Leigh Day partner Merry Varney said: “It is fundamentally important that at such a crucial stage in the care of people who may be approaching the end of their life, that people know and understand how the DNAR process works, and what authority the medical profession may have, outside of a patient’s and family’s wishes.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have been inundated with requests for help from confused and distressed patients and families about do not resuscitate decisions.”



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