Scots family horrified after 87-year-old great handed secret do not resuscitate order

A heartbroken family has hit out after a beloved Scots gran was given a secret do not resuscitate order.

Helen McErlane, 87, was taken into Glasgow Royal Infirmary to receive treatment for a kidney infection last year.

She fell into a deep sleep and doctors informed her loved ones that she may not wake up again.

Her granddaughter, Angela, said hospital staff told the family to be prepared to come and pay their final respects.

But four days later Helen woke up and was back to her happy, chatty self.

And the family was horrified to find a Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) form, signed by the doctor, in Helen’s medical files when she was released from hospital.

The order meant that doctors would not attempt to resuscitate the grandmother should her heart stop.

Glasgow Royal Infirmary

As reported by out sister title the Scottish Daily Express, Angela said: “She went into hospital just a couple of days after Christmas with a kidney infection and was chatting away when we went to visit her.

“We received a phone call just after new year saying that she had gone into a deep sleep that day and they made it seem like she wasn’t going to come out of it and there was no other way that it was going to go.

“She had last rights and they told us that nobody could come in, so the whole family as you can imagine sat up all night waiting for a phone call.”

Angela says that it wasn’t until Helen had come home that they noticed a DNACPR order had been placed on the grandmother without the family’s knowledge.

She continued: “There was the discharge later and then in the discharge letter that’s where we noticed that it said DNR agreed by the doctor.

“It’s just horrible, it’s like her life didn’t even matter and they had just decided that whatever happens, happens.

“They had just told us that she wasn’t gonna wake up so we never really took that there was a do not resuscitate in place.

“We didn’t realize that if she was going to arrest that there was going to be no attempt to resuscitate.

“Imagine that happened, it’s just horrible.”

Angela says that she tried to contact doctors on the ward but was told to contact Helen’s GP.

She continued: “I called the ward and they said yes, that was put in place. It was discussed with the family.

“Myself and my mum are the power of attorney, so we would know for definite if that was in place.

“The doctor that I spoke to on the ward, basically just said, you just need to speak to your GP about it. We never got an explanation or anything.”

Angela says that they were lucky to get their grandmother home but questions how she would have been able to cope if Helen had died because hospital staff didn’t resuscitate her.

She says it was all ‘very secret’ and says that she is concerned that others might not have been so lucky.

A spokesperson for Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, said: “We are sorry for any distress which may have been caused to Ms McErlane and her family.

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“We can confirm correct protocols were followed in this case, however we would welcome a follow up conversation with the family to discuss their care experience and provide some clarity and reassurance around any clinical decisions made.

“We aim to treat our patients with dignity and respect at all times. In making a DNACPR decision, clinicians will consider whether resuscitation would be successful. At all times, these decisions are based on the patient’s best interests.

“While Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is unlikely to be of any benefit in some patient groups, we fully appreciate that a DNACPR order can be very difficult for a patient and their family and our clinicians will always endeavor to involve them in such decisions.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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