St Annes man who agreed to have life support switched off if risky brain surgery went wrong horrified to discover ‘do not resuscitate’ order remained five years later

A St Annes man who agreed to be put on a ‘do not resuscitate’ order before undergoing life-threatening brain surgery in 2011 was shocked to discover it remained on his file five years later.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 20th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 20th May 2022, 7:30 am

Alan Willis, 62, suffered a stroke in 2011 which led to him being rushed from Blackpool Victoria Hospital to Royal Preston Hospital with a serious bleed on the brain.

Before undergoing a risky three-hour procedure, he told his wife, Sheena, that he should be allowed to die if the operation did not succeed.

He said: “My wife and I had spoke about what should happen in a near-death situation, and I decided if I was in a vegetative state then she should give permission for no resuscitation.”

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Alan Willis says he was put on a DNR order by Blackpool Victoria Hospital without his consent

Luckily, the dad-of-one, who lives on Heyhouses Lane, survived the operation and went on to make a full recovery.

Five years later, in July 2016, he was admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital once again after a blood test revealed dangerously low levels of potassium in his body, putting him at risk of high blood pressure and heart failure. There, he says he was horrified to discover the DNR order which had been entered under his name years before remained in place.

He said: “My blood tests were showing my potassium levels were only 1.7, which is dangerously low. My doctor rang me at home at 7pm and said go to hospital, so I went first thing in the morning. I was admitted onto a ward and the doctor came up and started writing ‘do not resuscitate’ on the board behind me.

"I said, hang on whats all this about? He said, five years ago you were put on a ‘do not resuscitate’ order.

“That was in the case of the stroke, which I was fully recovered from by the time this happened. But they weren’t going to do anything. I was sent there by a doctor in case of heart failure, and if it happened they weren’t going to try to save me. I basically raised merry hell.”

Alan says he was then taken off the DNR order, but added: “A doctor who I didn’t know rang my wife and went through all my illnesses and tried to get her to keep me on the DNR notice.”

He remains concerned about the state of such orders at the hospital, as the sisters of Blackpool hotelier James Craig recently claimed one was put on his file without their knowledge.

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James, 63, of Milbourne Street, died on July 4, 2019, of pneumonia caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), nearly one month after being admitted to the Vic with a chest infection.

His sister Rosemary said: “My brother loved life. He went mad when he thought there was a DNR on his file earlier that year.”

Alan said: “Clearly this is a problem that is going on. When I saw the article, it brought it all back to me. How many other people don’t realise they’ve actually been put on the DNR list?

“If they put you on a DNR, it shouldn’t carry on. There's clearly something very wrong with that.

“I stood up for myself, but if I hadn't, and I’d had a heart attack, I wouldn’t be here today. There may be more people in the same boat but have no idea.”

What the NHS says

"You and the people important to you should know that a ‘do not attempt CPR’ form has been put in your medical records.

“The form says that if your heart or breathing stop, CPR should not be tried. This means medical staff will not try to restart your heart or breathing.

"You can change your mind about your ‘do not attempt CPR’ decision at any time. If you do, you need to tell your doctors and nurses so that the DNACPR form is marked as no longer valid.

"The fact that you once had a DNACPR form will still be recorded on your records so that doctors and nurses can see your full medical history and know about conversations that happened in the past.”