On the 17th June 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled in a key decision regarding the use of ‘do not resuscitate’ notices (DNRs). Judges have found that the failure by doctors to discuss the use of DNR notices with a patient or their family, is a breach of the patient’s human rights.
Mrs Janet Tracey died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in March 2011 as a result of a neck fracture she sustained in a car crash two weeks earlier. At that time Mrs Tracey was preparing for the last year of her life, having recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Given the extent of her injuries, doctors placed a DNR notice in Mrs Tracey’s medical records, thinking that they were acting in Mrs Tracey’s best interests. However, the doctors failed to consult Mrs Tracey or her family. Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls ruled that this violated Mrs Tracey’s Article 8 right to respect for private life by failing to involve her in the process. The judgment effectively imposes a duty upon medical professionals to consult with a patient or their family before putting a DNR order in place.
It is already a well-established principle that neither a patient nor their family can require a doctor to administer treatment which that doctor does not consider to be in the patient’s best interests. So although today’s judgment does not in practice change the law, it does provide certainty for doctors and highlights the importance of family involvement where a patient’s life and future health are at risk, which can be crucial for ensuring the patients best interests are considered. Although the decision to withhold treatment can be a difficult one for family, the must have the choice.
Alderman solicitors have a specialist clinical negligence team who have undertaken numerous successful claims for patients involved in the negligent provision of care by the NHS. For further information please contact us on 0800 043 4453 or start your claim form now.
The leading medical negligence solicitors in the UK. Giving you peace of mind.
Freephone: 0800 043 4453
Telephone: 0161 457 0385
Fax: 0161 638 8671
3 Hardman Square