A CANCER patient has spoken of his "terror" when a hospital doctor issued him with a Do Not Resuscitate order.
Alan Cargill, 69, from West Cornforth, County Durham, was being treated at the University Hospital of North Durham, in Durham City, when he was approached by a doctor.
"I had reacted badly to chemotherapy and I also had a blood clot so they admitted me to hospital," said Mr Cargill, who has been diagnosed with cancer of the inner chest wall.
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"This doctor came to see me and informed me that I wouldn't be brought around again if anything happened. I would just be left."
Mr Cargill said the doctor gave him a form prominently marked Do Not Resuscitate and walked away.
The former haulage boss said the experience frightened him.
"He terrified me, to be truthful. It is bad craic for something like that to happen when you are that ill.
"It is stamped all over with Do Not Resuscitate. Apparently, you are supposed to carry it round with you."
Mr Cargill was also concerned that the matter was raised with him without any other member of his family being present.
A few days later Mr Cargill was discharged and allowed home where he discussed the Do Not Resuscitate order with his family.
He was so concerned that Mr Cargill decided to raise the matter with his solicitor.
"I talked to my solicitor and asked him, could they do that? He told me they can't."
After taking legal advice Mr Cargill contacted the hospital, confirmed that he did not wish the order to apply to him and then tore up the document.
Despite the shock of being issued with a Do Not Resuscitate order, Mr Cargill has nothing but praise for hospital staff.
"I have no complaints about the medical care. It couldn't have been better."
The widowed grandfather, who has two grown-up daughters, has decided not to have any more treatment for his cancer for the time being.
But last night he joked: "I have every intention of living as long as possible. I have just bought a new car!"
Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR orders are increasingly being used in the NHS when it is thought that the benefits of resuscitation are outweighed by the negative effects. The presence of a DNR order on a patients file means that medical staff are not required to resuscitate a patient if their heart stops or if they stop breathing.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said: "The use of DNR orders is understandably a sensitive and deeply distressing issue.
"Sadly, there have been far too many cases where healthcare professionals have failed to facilitate proper conversations with relatives and patients about how, when and why a DNR order may be used.
"Hospitals need to look carefully at their procedures to ensure there are open discussions around end of life care involving both patients and relatives."
Guidelines from the British Medical Association state that DNR orders should only be issued after discussion with patients or their family.
Last week The Northern Echo highlighted the fact that hospitals in the region have received more than £2m for using a controversial "end-of-life" programme which allows doctors to withdraw treatment and fluids.
Officials say the plan - called the Liverpool Care Pathway - is a compassionate method of treating dying patients.
But the Government has ordered a review of its use after claims that some families had no idea their relatives were on it.
A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are sorry to hear about this complaint, and would welcome contact via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALs), and the opportunity to meet with the complainant to discuss their concerns.
"Resuscitation decision making is a complex process. County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has a comprehensive policy that describes the process that we expect staff to follow when supporting patients and their families during this difficult time. This policy is based upon regional best practice."
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