Pensioner feared ‘dying alone’ as doctor signed ‘do not resuscitate’ order ‘without permission’


Telegraph reporters

Mon, 2 January 2023 at 3:07 pm GMT

Pat Burke, 82, and his wife Betty - KMG / SWNS
Pat Burke, 82, and his wife Betty – KMG / SWNS

A pensioner claimed a “do not resuscitate” order was signed by doctors without his permission and against his religious beliefs – leaving him to fear he would die alone in hospital.

Pat Burke, 82, was visiting the QEQM hospital in Margate, Kent, for a routine check-up on his pacemaker when he had a seizure in the waiting room.

Doctors and nurses rushed to the former mayor’s aid and he was taken onto a ward to be monitored by medics.

But when his wife of 60 years, Betty, visited the following day, she discovered a DNR form had been signed by doctors.

A DNR is a medical document which instructs healthcare providers not to do CPR if a patient has stopped breathing or if their heart stops beating.

Pat thought he was going to die alone in hospital and claims doctors did not speak to him or his wife before signing the document.

He said the pair would never have agreed to sign the form because they consider them a “form of suicide” and is against their religious beliefs.

Pat, from Deal, Kent, said: “I consider a DNR a form of suicide and I don’t think you should do that.

“I might not be well, I can’t run any more, I can’t box any more, but I want to be here.

“I’ve still got a life, I can still have a laugh, there is no reason why I should be dead. But I didn’t have a choice.

“If there is any chance of staying alive I think you should take it because I don’t think it’s fair on your family, or anyone else.”

‘I won’t go back there now’

Pat suffers from seizures as a result of blood clots on the brain from past sporting injuries, which result in short term memory loss.

The DNR document says the decision was discussed with the couple during the visit on December 21 – but Pat and Betty dispute this.

Pat, a former Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Canterbury, added: “I just couldn’t understand how this had come about.

“What worries me is that I’ve been to that hospital many times since 1997. I won’t go back there now.

“You mustn’t take your own life and you mustn’t allow anyone else to take a life.

“I’m alive because there are some tremendous doctors who have kept me alive and kept my heart ticking away.

“I’m not going to let somebody stop that and why should I? If you went outside and killed someone, you’d be done for murder.

“There is a lot in life and it doesn’t end because someone decided you’ve got to die, that’s not the way it works.”

‘I’m going to die’

Betty, 81, added: “When I saw Pat, he said to me ‘I’m going to die’.

“He said the doctor has told me I need a DNR but we have always said we do not believe in them – he did this form while I wasn’t there.

“When Pat has a seizure, it takes him two or three days to catch up with himself.

“On the form it says ‘does the patient have capacity to talk about CPR?’. They circled yes – but he didn’t, because he wouldn’t have understood.

“It says on the form it was discussed with me and that I was in agreement, but I wasn’t.”

Sarah Shingler, the chief nursing and midwifery officer for the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs QEQM, said: “We are very sorry for the concern caused to Mr Burke and his family and we will contact him to discuss his care.”

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