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Elderly Patients Pressured to Sign 'Do Not Resuscitate' Forms Amid Health Crisis Is Making Them Feel Their Lives Don't Matter

Elderly Patients Pressured to Sign 'Do Not Resuscitate' Forms Amid Health Crisis Is Making Them Feel Their Lives Don't Matter

A letter sent by one healthcare organization to its patients in Wales has created fear and anxiety for the older adults and vulnerable people.

The global health crisis has put a lot of pressure on healthcare services across countries and the pressure they are feeling might be leading to some dangerous precedents for the elderly in some countries. In the UK, for instance, older adults are feeling pressure to sign "Do Not Resuscitate" or DNR forms and this has created a lot of "fear and anxiety" among them.

In an open letter, charities like Age UK and Independent Age have warned that there have been "shocking examples where blanket decisions seem to be being made about the care and treatment options that will be available to older and vulnerable people," according to Daily Mail. In one incident, an 86-year-old woman agreed to sign a DNR form after her general practitioner surgery asked her to sign it.

Pressures like this have made the elderly feel that "their lives and wishes do not matter. This is shameful and unacceptable," the charities said. They have called on the government across the four nations to protect people's fundamental rights.



 

"We do not underestimate the significant pressures being faced by all staff working across our health and social care sectors at this difficult time, but it is crucial that we continue to protect people’s fundamental human rights. It would be completely unacceptable to abandon these rights in favor of taking blanket, discriminatory decisions. It is also crucial that governments and health services across our four nations carefully consider the ways they can provide stronger leadership and guidance – to ensure that people’s rights are upheld and communication with vulnerable people is handled in a far more sensitive way to avoid further worry and upset as we navigate the difficult path ahead of us," they said in the open letter, referring to the difficulties faced during this time of the pandemic.

They have pointed out that whether someone signs the DNR form is up to them entirely. "Difficult and painful decisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead, but these must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the risks and benefits, and people’s own wishes, through honest discussions between patients, doctors, and families. Whether or not to sign a DNA-CPR form is an individual’s decision, and they have a right to make that decision without feeling pressurized," they added.



 

One surgeon apologized for sending their patients a letter, in which they were asked to ensure that emergency services won't be called if they were sicker because of the virus.

"We will not abandon you.. but we have to be frank and realistic," it said. One patient said that it made her feel "worthless," according to BBC. "Completing a DNACPR will have several benefits," the letter said. "1/ your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999. 2/ scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a greater chance," the letter from Llynfi Surgery, Maesteg, Wales, said.



 

Patient Elizabeth John, 61,  who has vaginal cancer, said that the letter has caused her family distress. "With treatment, my cancer can be kept at bay, so I am not ready to dig my grave even though I am a burden on society," she said. "This letter made me feel worthless and I felt as if I had been sent a death warrant by the grim reaper," she added.

The letter was so upsetting that the staff from the institution have called up the patients, who were sent the letter, to apologize to them. Ogmore MP Chris Elmore, whose constituency covers Maesteg, said, "There is no getting around it, it is deeply concerning, the contents of this letter."



 

However, these sentiments find echo across the ocean in the US as well, where Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick has said that the older adults should sacrifice themselves for saving the economy for the future generation. "Let’s go back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country. Don’t do that. Don’t ruin this great American dream," he said, as per NBC News.



 

References: 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8194965/Elderly-pressured-signing-Do-not-resuscitate-forms-charities-warn.html

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-press/articles/2020/04/age-uk-response-to-dnr-forms/

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-52117814

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-lt-gov-dan-patrick-suggests-he-other-seniors-willing-n1167341

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