This, I must warn you, is going to be a disturbing blog. The trouble is I don’t know how to pass on facts like these without disturbing people – even though I’ve thought about it a lot because I don’t want to upset my readers. But I feel that these are facts that should be widely known because of how dangerous they are.
To begin at the beginning. The red edged form pictured here is an official document. It contains written permission for medical staff at St Richard’s Hospital NOT to treat a dying patient. Some of us might call it a death warrant as the key words on it are ‘DO NOT RESUSCITATE.’
I wish I could say it’s some sort of warped joke but I can’t because this particular one was written for me on the 8th of March this year. I found it among a muddle of papers in my packing case when I finally got home and by then I knew exactly what it meant.
March the 8th was a Tuesday and one of the days my daughter Mary comes to my house to see me. We usually start the day doing the Guardian crossword together but that morning there were no crosswords. I was much too ill, running a high temperature and delirious. Mary rang for an ambulance, which arrived not long afterwards in the usual way. The ambulance crew and the paramedics diagnosed suspected sepsis along with a chest infection and at that point an undiagnosed urine infection which was causing the delirium.
And off I went to hospital. But by the time I reached a ward, I was totally demented, convinced that I was going to be murdered by one of the nurses and scared stiff. So scared that I was planning to escape into the grounds where I would be picked up by a policemen and taken home. Mary on the other hand was practical. Thank God. She highlighted to the nurses that there was a possibility that I had a urine infection. The problem was that the days went by and I was not being treated for the UTI. Why not? Battle was joined and eventually I was wheeled off to another ward and the necessary treatment began.
It was a slow process but at least I knew where I was and began to recognise my visitors – especially my lovely determined Mary. But then I began to realise something else as well. In all the hospitals I’d visited for various reasons, the staff had always been warm and comforting and friendly. In the initial ward I went to they didn’t speak to me at all. They put me on a drip to give me antibiotics for the chest infection and inserted a catheter, took all manner of soundings, blood pressure, blood sugar and so on, but they didn’t speak to me or even smile at me.
The doctor on the second ward did speak to me on two occasions but otherwise most of my communication was with the nursing team who seemed to be always on the move. The first time he/she (I couldn’t tell which) spoke to me it was to tell me I’d been constipated since I came on the ward and that they were going to give me senna to deal with it. The second time he/she spoke to me it was to tell me I’d been signed off.
It wasn’t until I got home and saw the DNR form that I began to make sense of things. And to realise what a lot of questions this form begged.
- For a start we need to know how long it’s been in use and where it originated from, our beleaguered NHS or the government.
- We also need to hear from people who defended their relatives and kept them alive. There was quite a mail about it on Twitter recently. If you were one of the writers could you repeat your story here please.
- We need to hear from some of the doctors who have signed the form. On my copy there were two signatures, a young woman with clear handwriting called Natalie Chong and a consultant whose signature was, Squiggle dash. I would like to see both of them being interviewed on a reputable TV channel – like Channel Four – and given a chance to tell us what they know about it.
- Above all we need to help and respect our elderly citizens just as we should help and respect all our citizens.
Keep in touch. We need to help one another.