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The litigation could pave the way for hundreds of other cases against care homes and hospitals over end-of-life consent. Tony Stowell, 54, is suing a nursing home which, he says, put his 87-year-old mother on end-of-life care without her family being told. Antonia Stowell, 87, did not have the mental capacity to consent because she had dementia, say his lawyers.
The legal team will argue Antonia Stowell’s family would not have consented to end of life care if they had been asked.
However, the care home rejects the claim, insisting it provided the best care possible and adding: “All proper process in the delivery of this care was followed with precision.”
Mr Stowell visited or called his mother every day – even during lockdowns when he was only allowed to see her through a window.
When he learned of the nursing home’s decision to put her on end of life care in May 2020 he insisted she be moved to a hospital, where she later died.
Her medical records show Antonia, a mother of five, had been diagnosed with suspected pneumonia. Drugs used to treat end of life patients were prescribed.
The family say that the decision by the Hull based home, Rose Villa, to put her on end-of-life care was made two days before they were informed.
Mr Stowell said: “A week before we were told she was end-of-life she was smiling and waving at me through the window. She didn’t seem that ill to me. When I found out she was put on end of life care, I insisted she be taken to hospital .”
Fadi Farhat, a human rights lawyer from Gulbenkian Andonian solicitors who is leading the case, says he has been contacted by many families who say end of life decisions were made without their consent or consultation.
He said: “Under the law there is a presumption to save or prolong life. If a decision is made to put someone on end of life care or issue a DNR they have to consult with the patient or family members.
“The case of Antonia Stowell is definitely part of a wider national problem and we have been contacted by scores of families about loved ones being put on end of life care or given DNR orders from different parts of the country.”
Mr Farhat and his team will argue the decision to put Antonia Stowell on end of life care breached her human rights because her family was not consulted.
He said: “The case of Antonia Stowell is definitely part of a wider national problem and we have been contacted by scores of families about loved ones being put on end of life care or given DNR orders from different parts of the country.”
He added: “These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and those who have contributed most to society. They should not be subjected to this practice, a practice which became widespread in lockdowns when the very medical and human rights framework set up to protect us in the face of a threat was removed because of the threat – that of covid. If the case is successful we hope it will pave the way for scores of other similar claims and tighter government guidance and a uniform framework dealing with end of life consent.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK Charity Director, said: “Older people and their families and friends must feel confident that they will be able to have conversations with a healthcare professional that enable treatment options to be discussed along with medical advice and include the older persons’ wishes before a decision to discontinue or withhold treatment is made.
“We saw some deplorable and distressing examples of DNACPR (DNR) orders being applied inappropriately during the first wave of the pandemic. Despite guidance to the contrary, we are aware that blanket policies were put in place for the residents of some care homes. We also heard from older people and families who were not adequately consulted about their wishes or felt pressured into agreeing on an order. Any medical decision should always be made on an individual basis, taking into account the medical history and preferences of each patient.
“As we continue through the last few months of winter, it’s vital that lessons are learned and that older people and families are never again subjected to such utterly unacceptable practices.”
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