MLA claims patient not consulted before ‘do not resuscitate’ order issued

A patient and their family were not consulted before a do not resuscitate (DNR) notice was issued at a Belfast hospital, a Stormont Assembly member has said.

Some elderly residents have voiced fears over the use of such measures during the coronavirus pandemic when doctors are having to make difficult ethical decisions while allocating ventilators.

Some patients could have acute treatment withdrawn to instead offer it to those with a greater chance of survival, guidance has said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has set out guidelines on the rationing of care if the NHS is overwhelmed by new cases.

Alex Easton, a DUP Assembly member on Stormont’s health committee, alleged neither family members nor patient were consulted before a DNR notice was issued for someone who was conscious at the Ulster Hospital near Belfast.

He asked a Stormont official: “Can you assure me that people’s lives are not being decided without consultation with their loved ones?

Coronavirus nurse
Coronavirus nurse

“If that is the case it is totally unacceptable.”

The Ulster is one of Northern Ireland’s main hospitals in the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

BMA ethics guidance says: “If services are overwhelmed during this pandemic, health providers will put in place – or expand – systems of triage.

“Triage is a form of rationing or allocation of scarce resources under critical or emergency circumstances where decisions about who should receive treatment must be made immediately because more individuals have life-threatening conditions than can be treated at once.

“Triage sorts or grades persons according to their needs and the probable outcomes of intervention.

“It can also involve identifying those who are so ill or badly injured that even with aggressive treatment they are unlikely to survive and should therefore receive a lower priority for acute emergency interventions while nonetheless receiving the best available symptomatic relief.”

Stormont’s chief social worker, Sean Holland, said he would investigate the case raised by Mr Easton.

He added: “My understanding is that these are decisions which ideally we should talk about these things when we are fit and well.

“These should be decisions with clinicians and family and carers.”