Doctors Place DNR Notice on Patient's Notes Without Informing Her


Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Shocking news yesterday that Doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge placed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) on a patient's notes without her knowledge or consent. They then lied to her about involvement of her family in this decision. Dr Keith McNeil, CEO of Cambridge University Hospitals says;
"Today's ruling hinges on a specific point of law. There was no criticism of our clinical care.
It is a fact of life that every day people die in hospitals. From my own experience as a specialist hospital doctor, the most important thing is that these patients are treated with the utmost respect and dignity."
How is making isolated and arbitrary decisions about whether they will live or die treating them with respect and dignity one wonders? Yes, these are always difficult situations, but the medical profession simply must always err on the side of caution, on the side of compassion, on the side of treatment, unless there are specific instructions to the contrary from the individual involved.

Mrs Tracey, from Ware, in Hertfordshire, was suffering from advanced lung cancer when she was taken to hospital after a serious car crash. Her husband and daughters were distressed when a "do not resuscitate" notice was put on her hospital records. It was cancelled after the family complained, though a second was later put in place - after talks with the family and two days before Mrs Tracey died at the age of 63.

The case underlines a legal duty of NHS bodies to consult patients before making such DNR decisions, according to the family's legal team.

In the judgement, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said the hospital trust violated Mrs Tracey's right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

He said: "A Do Not Attempt Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation decision is one which will potentially deprive the patient of life-saving treatment, there should be a presumption in favour of patient involvement.
"There need to be convincing reasons not to involve the patient."
Yeah, I'll say there do!! He went on to warn that
"doctors should be wary of being too ready to exclude patients from the process on the grounds that their involvement is likely to distress them".
One of the features of contemporary Western society is the tendency to evade the reality of death, to hide from it, to 'protect' people from it, almost to deny its reality until it is unavoidable. This tendency is connected to the 'practical atheism' noted by the Second Vatican Council (Gaudiem et Spes nn. 19-21), but the same Council document alerts the modern world to the need to confront the reality of death and to the yearnings for enduring life to which Christ alone provides an adequate response (Gaudiem et Spes  nn. 18, 22).

Eternal life: 1 Cor 15:3-5, 12-20, 45-57 is in continuity with, but is not the same as our limited life on earth. Pope Saint John Paul II makes this truth explicit with a new expression for a Magisterial text in Evangelium Vitae. He speaks about human life "in its temporal phase" (n. 2:1) and "in its earthly state" (n. 38:3, 47:2). This points us towards another phase of human existence, namely eternal life, for which this current existence is a preparation. We, as Catholics, must hold to this metaphysical dimension to our understanding of the human condition. Life on earth is the condition for the attainment of all others. If we are not alive, we cannot pursue truth, aesthetics, justice, or salvation.

The care for the sick has become much more sophisticated and technological as time has gone on. A sick person can be isolated from family. Expertise and resources are needed to sustain the complex systems of care which sustain them, such systems are provided at a cost. It has become easier for not only the patient to feel a burden, but for nurses, doctors and others to see the patient as a 'case' or a 'problem' rather than as a person who retains their fundamental dignity despite all the dependence and weakness. This is further confounded by the subjective way in which increasing numbers in the medical profession ridicule theism.

The dignity of each person must be respected as we are all created in the image and the likeness of God. This also has implications for how the patient is treated. As Catholics, we may refuse extra-ordinary treatment, what is likely to be futile or unduly burdensome (e.g. an operation with very limited hope of success, when the general medical state of the patient is considered. If it is honestly judged that any benefit would be only marginal and that the disruption to them would be major, then the means are extra-ordinary and are not obligatory.

Nutrition and hydration are not extra-ordinary, or even forms of therapy. They are a fundamental human need and should be provided to people who are untreatable, as part of the care to which all are entitled. Informed Consent is not a just legal or procedural requirement; it is a moral one.


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