A Paralympian said she was made to feel her life was “not worth living” after she was asked to sign a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) form despite not having a life-limiting condition.
Helene Raynsford, 42, a wheelchair user, is a former champion rower who won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing paralympic games. She was asked to sign the form, commonly called a DNR, by someone with no medical training after she was invited to an appointment initiated by a primary care network in the south-east of England.
Raynsford believes that she was asked to sign the DNR simply because she is a wheelchair user, as she is not elderly or seriously ill.
You have decided to speak about your experience to warn other people with disabilities who may also be asked to sign this type of agreement simply because they use a wheelchair or use some other type of aid to help them in daily life.
“At the appointment, the person who asked me to sign the DNR was not a trained healthcare worker,” Raynsford said. “He also asked me what my understanding of my medical condition was and if I had a power of attorney.
“I was pretty frustrated about the whole thing. He made me feel like he wasn’t worthy. The only information this person knew was that I am a wheelchair user. I’m a big fan of good end-of-life care and talking about options, but I don’t have a life-limiting condition at this time.
“The whole date felt weird. I would be concerned if sudden decisions were made on this. I feel like these kinds of conversations should be with healthcare professionals who know the individual, not people with no medical background. I felt compelled to speak up to protect other disabled people and hope the implementation is reviewed.”
Raynsford said he “politely declined” to sign the form and said he would do some research on it first.
“I wanted to make an informed decision and I really didn’t like this,” he said. “I don’t know what safeguards are in place for the most vulnerable people. My GP was horrified when I told him what had happened and was very apologetic. She told me that I am not the type of person that these forms should be put on.”
Reflecting on the episode, he added: “Is a judgment being made about the value of my life compared to someone else’s life? Would this mean that if I am injured in a car accident, my life would not be considered worth saving? There’s not much that gets me down, but this really stopped me and made me feel like my worth for treatment was being questioned.”
Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, also a wheelchair user, expressed alarm at what had happened to her fellow athlete.
She said: “Being disabled should never disqualify people from having a life. On several occasions I have reminded people that just because you are a wheelchair user does not mean you should be subject to exclusion, discrimination or unequal treatment.”
A spokesman for the integrated care board in the Raynsford area said: ‘A ‘do
The do not resuscitate notice should only be issued by a medical professional who has full knowledge of a patient’s health problems and with the consent of the patient or their care workers.”