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24 November 2022

Statement in response to Helene Raynsford ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) story

Helene Raynsford’s story has shone a light on the distress caused when DNR (do not resuscitate) decisions are not made appropriately or conducted sensitively.

Helene Raynsford has shone a light on the distress caused when DNR (Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) decisions and conversations are not made appropriately or conducted sensitively. This is symptomatic of longstanding issues with communication and decision-making around DNRs, exposed and exacerbated during the pandemic. To base these important decisions on assumptions about someone’s disability or age is not only completely unacceptable, it is also unlawful. Doing so has a catastrophic impact on people’s trust in the healthcare system and, crucially, it can result in people being denied appropriate life-saving treatment.

Making assumptions based on someone’s disability or age also undermines the essential role DNR decisions play in end-of-life care. When made and communicated properly these decisions protect patients from a highly invasive and often futile treatment that can do more harm than good, and can open up important conversations about someone’s wishes for the end-of-life. It is also a decision many people proactively want to have in place – the proportion of calls Compassion in Dying received on the topic more than doubled in 2020, with the vast majority seeking support to refuse CPR and other life-sustaining treatments should they become seriously ill with Covid-19 or other illnesses.

As Helene has said, individuals must be in the driving seat of their care. DNR conversations must always involve the person or those close to them, be part of a wider conversation about what matters to them and be based on their individual circumstances and wishes. Helene’s experience should act as a warning that there is much more work to be done to ensure this is a reality for everyone.

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