Bereaved family calls for national resuscitation policy

The family of a woman who died after a "Do Not Resuscitate" notice was placed in her chart without consultation is calling for a national policy on how such notices are used.

Janet Tracey, who was 63 and had terminal lung cancer, died in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in 2011. She had been admitted with a broken neck following a serious car crash.

An initial DNR notice caused Ms Tracey's family considerable alarm. That notice was cancelled, following the family's complaints, but a second one was put in place later after talks with the family, but without consultation with Ms Tracey herself.

Her family are now taking the hospital to the appeals court, claiming that the first DNR notice violated Ms Tracey's human rights, which the hospital denies.

In a 2012 court judgement, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies declared that a judicial review into the legal issues surrounding DNRs was neither "appropriate nor proportionate".

In a fact-finding judgement, Justice Davies also described the resuscitation process as a "cruel and undignified procedure".

At the time, the Cambridge University Hospital's NHS Trust said: "It is important to recognise that Mrs Tracey was very poorly, suffering from terminal lung cancer and a broken neck.

"In line with good practice and in full consultation with Mrs Tracey and her family, a do not resuscitate order was first rescinded following concerns raised by the family and then, with the family's full agreement, later reinstated."

But the Tracey family do not accept that they were adequately informed when the first DNR notice was posted.

They are now leading calls for a national policy regarding the use of DNR notices.

Kate Masters, Ms Tracey's 47 year old daughter, said to the BBC: "At the moment, the policy on managing resuscitation is down to each trust - including each ambulance trust.

"The end result is that nobody gets any clear information when it comes to patient level. And that can be heart-breaking.

"The situation really has to change so that no other families are left like mine are. How someone's end of life is handled really does live with the family forever."

Dave Tracey, Ms Tracey's widower, agreed with his daughter. Also speaking to the BBC, he said: "There needs to be some clarity, so people can understand the situation and what is going on with your particular loved one at the time.

"This has been going on so long. I personally can't turn a corner in my life while this case is hanging over us."

Merry Varney, the family's lawyer from the Leigh Day firm which specialises in personal injury and criminal negligence, said: "This case is not about giving patients the right to demand cardio-pulmonary resuscitation in any circumstance.

"This is about the decision-making process, and the rights of patients to be involved in how those decisions are made, and to know that those decisions have been made about them."

Statistics cited by the Tracey family in the Guardian confirm that 80 per cent of those who die in hospital are given a DNR notice, and that 70 per cent of people in the UK die in hospitals.

A spokeswoman for the anti-euthanasia charity Against Legalised Euthanasia - Research and Teaching (ALERT), said to Christian Today: "We deeply sympathise with the [Tracey] family."

The case is listed to take place over the next two days.