'Shock' over Canterbury grandmother's incorrect DNR order

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Media captionMelanie Moore said she "could have lost" her grandmother

An investigation is under way after a paramedic was wrongly told an 81-year-old cancer patient did not want to be resuscitated.

An ambulance attended the woman's Kent home due to her breathing difficulties.

Her granddaughter, Melanie Moore, said she was shocked to hear the paramedic get the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) instruction over his radio and said "I could have lost her that day".

South East Coast Ambulance said it was looking into who issued the DNR.

Ms Moore, who was with her grandmother in Canterbury at the time, said: "I was incredibly shocked when I could see almost instantly that it obviously wasn't her decision.

"If I hadn't been there and something had happened they wouldn't have resuscitated her."

Image caption Melanie Moore said she was shocked and upset to hear the DNR instruction

The patient, Dorothy, who suffers from anxiety attacks and does not want her full identity revealed, was treated with medication but not taken to hospital.

She complained to East Kent Hospitals Trust which is overseeing her care, but following an internal investigation it confirmed it had never issued a DNR.

"Further work is being carried out to establish how this miscommunication has occurred," it said.

What is a DNR order?

DNRs are "Do Not Resuscitate" orders on a patient's file which means a doctor is not required to resuscitate a patient if their heart stops and is designed to prevent unnecessary suffering.

The usual circumstances when it is appropriate not to resuscitate include:

  • when it will not restart the heart or breathing
  • when there is no benefit to the patient
  • when the benefits are outweighed by the burdens

Guidelines issued by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing say that DNR orders should be issued only after discussion with patients or their family.

Read more from the BBC about DNRs

South East Coast Ambulance said it was working with the trust to establish who had issued the DNR.

It said: "At the time of a 999 call we are often able to access vital information provided to us by a patient's care teams.

"Our ambulance crews only act on the information they are provided with and we discuss this information with our patients."

Julian Brazier, Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, said he believed it was an oversight made by hospital staff under extreme pressure and had "written to the chief executive of the trust to ask for an investigation".

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