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‘Appalling”: Autistic adults told to have DNR orders for COVID-19 crisis

A disability rights group has said that a GP surgery which sent letters for adults with autism saying they should a ‘do not resuscitate’ plan in place if they become critically ill during the Coronavirus crisis behaved appallingly. 

Yesterday, BBC reported that Voyage Care, who cares for the group of autistic adults, “was the sent the letter by a surgery in Somerset amid the coronavirus crisis.”

On Twitter, [Voyage Care’s] boss Andrew Cannon said there had been “no consultation with families” and most involved were “working age adults”.

Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has declined to name the surgery.

It said it was investigating the matter, BBC reported.

“Do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders are sometimes used if someone is nearing the end of their life, and drawn up with the patient or their family.

Emma Quinn of the Irish-based Disability Voices for Life organisation said that the GP surgery’s action were “appalling” and that if the investigation found wrongdoing, the surgery should be named.

“Its very upsetting to see this happening and to know that this ugly, discriminatory attitude still exists towards people with autism,” she said. “And its even more appalling that doctors in a medical practise would think like this.”

“People with autism make valuable contributions to the world, and are loved and important. The notion that they would be encouraged to take out a DNR in the middle of a pandemic – as if they were less equal or had less of a right to care or a right to life – should horrify everyone.”

She said that the BBC report, however, showed that “some really horrible attitudes still prevailed”.

“The BBC said that similar cases happened in Brighton and south Wales, so its not just one isolated incident, which is shocking but frankly doesn’t surprise me. People with disabilities and their families are completely overlooked when it comes to getting fair play and  ending discrimination. It needs to stop,” she said.

“It’s great to see Voyage Care speaking out publicly about what’s happened but the truth is that they shouldn’t need to. Discrimination against people with disabilities needs to become absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

The British Medical Association guidelines for the Coronavirus pandemic pointed out that blanket DNRs were ethically unacceptable and that a learning disability, autism or stable long-term disability, are not in themselves ever reasons for a DNR.

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