Shock Report: New ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Orders Imposed on COVID-19 Patients with Learning Disabilities

Image Credits: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images.

People in the United Kingdom with learning disabilities have been given “do not resuscitate” orders during the second wave of the pandemic, according to a watchdog group.

The charity group Mencap claimed that it had received reports last month that people with learning disabilities have been told they would not be revived if they fell ill with COVID-19.

From The Guardian:

Mencap said it had received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with Covid-19.

The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year.

DNACPRs are usually made for people who are too frail to benefit from CPR, but Mencap said some seem to have been issued for people simply because they had a learning disability. The CQC [Care Quality Commission] is due to publish a report on the practice within weeks.

The disclosure comes as campaigners put growing pressure on ministers to reconsider a decision not to give people with learning disabilities priority for vaccinations. There is growing evidence that even those with a mild disability are more likely to die if they contract the coronavirus.

Although some people with learning disabilities such as Down’s syndrome were in one of four groups set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which the government promised would be offered the vaccine by tomorrow, many were classified lower categories of need and are still waiting.

Mencap’s chief executive Edel Harris blasted the order, calling it a discriminatory practice that’s caused potentially avoidable deaths for an already at-risk group.

“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out,” Harris said.

“The JCVI and government must act now to help save the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people by urgently prioritising all people with a learning disability for the vaccine.”

Notably, individuals with disabilities like Down’s syndrome were in one of four groups fast-tracked by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Learning disability psychiatry consultant Dr. Keri-Michèle Lodge claimed that the government failed to address the needs of the learning disabled, who are at a high risk of death from COVID.

“The biggest factor associated with the increased rate of death from their analysis was living in care homes or residential settings,” Lodge said. “They prioritized people in care homes for vaccinations, but that was only for older adults. They completely forgot about people with learning disabilities in a really similar setting. I don’t know if the government were blindsided or just neglectful.”

So far in the UK, 14 million people have received the COVID-19 vaccine.


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