13/09/2012 08:09 BST

Down's Syndrome Man Sues East Kent NHS Trust Over Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

A man with Down's syndrome is suing an NHS trust over a hospital's decision to issue a do-not-resuscitate order - saying he is being discriminated against because of his disability.

His lawyers said it was "blatant discrimination" that the order was issued, without his family's knowledge, but East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust says it did not contravene any guidance from medical bodies.

The man, who is identified only as AWA, did not not have any knowledge of the order not to revive him in case of a heart attack or stroke, until he returned from a stay in hospital in Margate to the care home where he lived.

The DNR order had covered the duration of his stay in hospital. The man, 51, also has dementia and cannot feed himself.

Reasons given in the order were that the man has "Down's syndrome, is unable to swallow, bed bound, learning difficulties".

It describes his next of kin as "unavailable" - but his family said they had visted him "virtually every day".

One of AWA's close relatives told the BBC: "Until his dementia started three years ago, he had a really hectic social life. He loved parties, discos and going to church.

"He was looked after at home for as long as possible, but then we got him into a nice care home. His health deteriorated a bit - he had eating problems and couldn't swallow - so the decision was taken to have a Peg inserted so he could receive medication, foods and liquids.

"He was admitted to hospital for a fortnight. When he was discharged, one of the carers at his home was unpacking his bag and found the DNR form, to their horror.

"We weren't aware of the DNR until then. We were very angry and quite distressed, especially as he'd been re-admitted that day because he'd got pneumonia.

"Since November last year, he's been right as rain. He has a specially adapted chair, takes part in various activities and is conscious of everybody around him most of them time.

"He has a good way of life now, but somebody wasn't prepared to give him the time of day."

Dr Neil Martin, medical director for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The trust cannot comment on this individual case because it is subject to ongoing legal proceedings.

"East Kent Hospitals has put a great deal in place in recent years to meet the needs of vulnerable patients, including practical steps to improve communication with people with learning disabilities and their carers.

"It has a clear and robust policy in place on 'Do Not Attempt Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation', which complies fully with national guidance from the professional bodies."