Back in April 2020, I reported on how DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders were put on people’s files without their permission or knowledge. This was an issue in the UK that seems to be continuing despite the outcry then. We need to fight this with all our might or slowly the disabled will be killed off. The issues are similar to a year ago, so the analysis is similar. DNR orders can turn a minor hospital visit into a fatal one. These orders tell doctors not to provide care in many circumstances. DNR orders make sense when someone is at the end of their life: that is who they are for. But they don’t make sense for working-age adults who have no fatal conditions. Also, this contradicts Catholic Bioethics.
I’ll review the new article then offer some bioethical reflections. This will be more of a summary while last year’s article gave more depth.
New Reports of DNR Orders Without Consent
People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog.
Mencap [a leading UK charity for disability] 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. […]
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 is due to publish a report on the practice within weeks. […]
Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support.
“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.
“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.”
Read the whole report.
Moral Analysis of DNR Orders Without Consent
The federal government (National Institute on Aging), explains the differences that may make a DNR order proper for someone. In doing so, they also point out why it would medically unwise for a middle-aged person without serious conditions. This means medically we should not give a DNR order to those with a learning disability.
A secular guide on disability rights in Pennsylvania notes that the US makes cases like those in the UK illegal. This further indicates they are bad medicine.
Fr. Tad Pacholczyk (National Catholic Bioethics Center) wrote:
If a DNR order is chosen, the condition of the patient must be such that the intervention would be of no significant benefit to him or her. Sometimes out of a generalized fear of medical technology, people may decide to put a DNR in place many years before any serious medical situation arises. Without knowing the medical particulars of their own future situations, however, this would be an unwise and ill-advised step. […]
So when death is imminent, and disease states are very advanced (perhaps with multiple organ failure), and assuming other spiritual matters, such as last sacraments, have been addressed, a DNR order may not raise any moral problems. The key consideration in making the judgement will be to determine whether the benefits of resuscitation outweigh the burdens.
William May wrote: “A ‘do-not-resuscitate’ order is morally permissible if one can judge that CPR is excessively burdensome for this patient, taking into account his situation and his physical and moral resources, or that CPR imposes excessive expense on the family or community.” Otherwise, they are not ethical.
Let’s Fight DNR Orders on Disabled Adults
Early this week, I posted about Canada now offering the disabled euthanasia as a “treatment.” This pattern similar to what is happening in the UK. The UK is simply doing it a little more slyly. They kill by indirect euthanasia where they let someone they can easily save die. There is a pattern of devaluing the lives of the disabled. This comes from a eugenic mentality that assumes the disabled have low-quality lives not worth preserving. That mentality is wrong.
Some think this won’t come to the USA. I don’t think they are realistic. Sure the US does not have government-run health care but insurance-run health care. I can see insurance seeking cost savings through eliminating expensive patients just like governments do.
There has been a rallying cry in the disability community for inclusion. Nothing about us without us. This is usually against medical professionals or parents trying to seek what they think is best for us. The eugenics involved in this kind of action takes this a step further away from justice. It is not a parent who tries to seek what they think is best for their disabled child, but a nameless bureaucrat looking to save money. We must fight this with all our might.
Here I repeat my thesis that pro-life and disability rights groups need to work together. I do not know if either can reverse this course society is going on their own. However, I think together these two moves can change a lot of hearts and change society. Disabled lives are worth saving. Forcing DNR orders on them is pure ableism.
Note: Please support me on Patreon so I can keep writing things like this. I think the intersection of pro-life and disability rights is important but almost nobody else writes on it.