A friend of mine who has a significant impairment was not well earlier this year and went to hospital where she was asked by a doctor if she wanted Do Not Resuscitate on her file. She said no but the doctor persisted, pointing out resuscitation is painful and hard on the body of someone who is not strong anyway. She still firmly indicated that yes she did wish to be resuscitated.
Quite recently she went back to hospital on a routine visit. She saw a different doctor who had some concern about the DNR on her file and pointed it out. She was very distressed that it was on her file despite her clear indication to the contrary.
What did the first doctor know about her quality of life? Nothing, and who is he to make a judgement anyway. My friend has a good quality of life on her own terms, whatever that means to anyone else.
It seems that doctors and others still think they are in a position to make such decisions for others, depriving them of their humanity, dignity and autonomy in the process. They should take heed of the basic human rights principle that someone should not be arbitrarily deprived of life. New Zealand has long been a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines this right.
This incident, and the attitude of the doctor involved raises uncomfortable memories of, and has strong parallels to the Cartwright Inquiry following the Unfortunate Experiment at National Womenâ€™s Hospital.
My advice to disabled people with significant impairments and high support needs is to check your medical files to ensure that your right to life is protected.