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Killing compassion in the care homes

Killing compassion in the care homes

The Care Quality Commission is investigating ‘[c]laims that care homes placed blanket “do not resuscitate” orders on residents at the height of the pandemic’; Compassion in Dying, ‘a charity’, has ‘called for an inquiry’ into the blanket use of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) and Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) orders, ‘saying that since March it had heard several reports of orders  being made for patients across a range of healthcare settings in a blanket fashion’ (“‘Do not resuscitate” orders at care homes investigated’, Telegraph, October 13, 2020).


However, as academic Michael Wee has warned, the ‘charity’ Compassion in Dying, which is the sister organisation of the assisted suicide advocacy campaign Dignity in Dying, ‘has said its promotion of advance decisions would “save money in the long-term”’; its ‘“bespoke advance decision pack … directs a person to consider refusing all life-sustaining treatment in the event of whichever condition one chooses to include. First on the list is “any type of dementia”’, and if a patient has signed such a ‘“blanket refusal”’ then ‘“contracts pneumonia and because of the illness becomes more confused and unable to make decisions”’, doctors ‘“would be highly unlikely to administer even a simple course of antibiotics. The advance decision pack does little to encourage a person to consider the likely benefits and burdens of different treatmentsInstead, it highlights the possibility of refusing life-sustaining treatment in ‘situations that you would find intolerable’, such as being ‘unable to attend to my personal hygiene’, or being ‘persistently anxious or agitated’”. Wee says: ‘“The message is clearpeople are asked to judge whether life with a certain condition or disability is worth living. Coronavirus, Parkinson’s, or stroke - the question is the same, regardless of one’s chances of survival. ... It is almost assisted suicide by the backdoor.”’


Reports about the blanket use of DNRs and DNARs have not been exactly lacking since the pandemic started, and warnings have been issued by several organisations concerned about the welfare of care home residents;  therefore the CQC investigation is more than  welcome, but let us hope they do not allow themselves to be influenced by a thinly disguised pressure group for assisted suicide.


If Compassion in Dying and Dignity in Dying have changed their minds about self-killing or assisted killing that would be even better news, but it seems they continue to see it as the answer to suffering, which they regard as intrinsically undignified. This suggests that they do not know the true meaning of charity, or indeed of compassion – to accompany another person on the road of life to death - its natural end.


That may take longer than administering a lethal injection, but it is better for the patient and also better for the whole of society. The alternative is to abandon caring and descend into a terrifying spiral of killing the weakest among us; and it all begins by killing compassion.