5th January 2021
During the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic doctors may have made blanket decisions regarding resuscitation rather than addressing patient’s personal wishes.
The Care Quality Commission reported an increase in complaints between March and September 2020. 40 complaints were made by concerned families during this period, in comparison to just 9 complaints made in the previous 6-month period.
Further investigations are taking place across different commissioning groups to determine the extent to which DNARs (Do Not Automatically Resuscitate) may have been misused. The findings of the report are due to be published in February 2021.
In some cases, it is understood that blanket Do Not Resuscitate procedures were put into place in hospitals and care homes automatically when patients tested positive for covid-19. However, this was a misunderstood measure that was not authorised.
Others reported that GPs told care facilities to put DNAR measures in place, families were not always notified in time and others were concerned that their relatives had agreed to DNAR but may have lacked understanding due to illness, hearing problems or not speaking English as their first language.
It is widely known that the NHS was put under immense strain to cope with the influx of Covid patients earlier this year and unfortunately stress can lead to misunderstandings, mistakes and lack of communication.
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is a life-saving procedure which is given to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It helps to pump blood around the person’s body when their heart is not able to. A series of chest compressions are given along with rescue breaths to help keep oxygen moving around the casualty’s body.
Although it can be lifesaving, as with any medical procedures there are risks involved. If not performed correctly, CPR can cause rib fractures and organ damage. It can be ineffective even if conducted correctly.
Some people have their own views about whether it is appropriate to have CPR performed. This opinion can be formed due to their religious or spiritual beliefs, their approach to risk, personal experience or preference.
Regardless of preferences, each person should be consulted separately rather than blanket decisions being made.
These errors have caused a great deal of pain and upset to many families who will understandably be angry at decisions that have been made in error, and possibly against their loved one’s personal wishes.
Whilst many people feel uncomfortable discussing death or serious ill-health, it is an important conversation to have. Furthermore, it is imperative to express any personal wishes in writing in case mental or physical capacity is lost.
Once in an emergency situation it is often too late and what happens if left in the hands of medical professions, who we entrust to make important decisions. As demonstrated in the Care Quality Commission findings, this is not always done correctly.
Worryingly, only 59% of over 70’s have discussed their care wishes with their families and only 22% of people have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which sets out how your affairs are to be managed in the event of losing mental capacity to make important decisions. There are two different types of documents. One which covers finances and property – appointing a trusted person or persons to make decisions and handle transactions such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, accessing investments and selling property. The other document supports health and welfare decisions, allowing someone to make decisions on your behalf about health, diet, welfare, living arrangements etc.
Your health and welfare LPA can set out your wishes for a variety of scenarios such as your preferences on where medical treatment is received and your thoughts on life sustaining treatment such as CPR.
Losing mental capacity to make key decisions can happen at any point in time. Most of the time an LPA is used for the elderly or those suffering with dementia, however, serious accidents and illnesses can unfortunately occur at any point in our lives and are not just limited to old age.
Many people might consider making a will, but some legal professionals take the stance that a Lasting Power of Attorney can actually be more important than a will in certain situations.
Whether you have concerns about medical treatment received or would like to address your legal protection, we have experts at Lamb Brooks who can speak to you in more detail about the next steps.
Please call 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant who is available 24/7.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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