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Remembering when the UK government used COVID to euthanise the disabled

UK do not recusitate orders news
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In 2021, a harrowing issue came to light: people with learning disabilities in the UK were inappropriately given Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) orders during the pandemic’s second wave.

Despite prior condemnations and investigations by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), these practices persisted, raising alarm and prompting urgent calls for change.

The issue was first reported in the Observer, a sister publication of legacy media outlet The Guardian, and published on the latter’s website.

Mencap, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities, reported receiving numerous accounts of DNACPR notices issued simply due to individuals’ learning disabilities rather than their actual health conditions. This revelation underscored the persistent discrimination and healthcare obstacles faced by this vulnerable group. Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, decried the unacceptable treatment, emphasising the need for urgent prioritisation of people with learning disabilities in healthcare efforts.

Statistics from Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics at the time highlighted the stark disparities. People with learning disabilities, particularly younger adults, faced significantly higher mortality rates compared to their peers.

The CQC’s investigation into the inappropriate issuance of DNACPR notices aimed to address these injustices. Dr. Keri-Michèle Lodge, a consultant in learning disability psychiatry, pointed out that inadequate communication and understanding of symptoms in people with learning disabilities contributed to their higher risk.

Campaigners, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups like Care England urged the government to rectify these oversights. Social media accounts compared the practice to the T4 programme of Nazi Germany under the incurably ill, physically or mentally disabled, emotionally distraught, and elderly people were euthanised between 1939 and 1945.

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