Do Not Resuscitate – Is it on Your Records Without Your Knowledge?


The Court of Appeal decided on the 16th June that a 'Do Not Resuscitate' (DNR) order placed on Janet Tracey, without her consent, was a breach of her human rights. Doctors had placed the order on Janet's notes which was later cancelled after the family complained.

NHS hospital

Harrowing Discovery

Mrs Tracey, 63, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She has been described as someone who wished to live life to the full despite her illness. Her family said that she had 'a strong will to live' and 'wanted to have every minute of every day'.

Mrs Tracey had explicitly informed doctors that she wanted to be included in conversations about her care, and even wrote a note to one consultant from her hospital bed which said, "Please do not exclude me" and, "I will do my damnedest". There is no indication that she lacked mental capacity, and as you can see, no indication that she wouldn't want to fight her illness.

She was distraught and horrified when she discovered that a DNR order had been put onto her records, without her knowledge at all.

Mrs Tracey and her family complained to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, who cancelled the notice, only to add it again at a later date, following talks with the family, two days before Mrs Tracey died.

The Legal Decision

The Tracey family sought a review of the law regarding DNR orders, on the basis that the doctors had decided amongst themselves to not resuscitate Janet.

The Court of Appeal held that the doctors had breached article 8 (the right to respect for private life) of the European Convention of Human Rights, which applies in the UK due to the Human Rights Act 1998.

Lord Dyson, the second most senior judge in England and Wales presided over the appeal. He stated that "a decision as to how to pass the closing days and moments of one's life" clearly touches on "a patient's personal autonomy, integrity, dignity and quality of life".

Because of this case, doctors must have a discussion with a patient before placing a DNR order on their records, and must provide a 'sensitive exploration of the patient's wishes'. This is significant as the ruling does not give patients the right to have CPR, but it does mean they should be consulted.

How Would You Feel?

If you or your loved one had found that such a life-changing note had been placed on your medical records without any discussion, how would you feel?

It seems that sometimes it is forgotten that it is our health service, and that the rights and wishes of the patient are meant to be the cornerstone of the NHS.

If you feel that you or your loved one's rights are being disregarded, or you've suffered because of medical negligence you should contact a solicitor to ask where you stand.

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