According to her family, 31-year-old Holly Redworth had every right to live. But they claim that right was denied simply because she had Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes physical and cognitive impairments. Redworth was admitted to William Harvey Hospital in Kent, England for low oxygen levels about eight months ago. When she stopped breathing, no one took any action to resuscitate her, and she died.
Redworth’s father, Roger Redworth, spoke to the Times about the horrific experience and said they were never consulted before the medical staff at the hospital issued his daughter a do-not-resuscitate, or DNR, order. “We were all in shock. One minute she was there with her eyes open, and the next minute she stopped breathing,” he told the Times. Five days before she died, the DNR was put into place without consulting the family, citing the fact that Redworth had a learning disability, asthma, epilepsy, and was obese, saying attempting to save her life would be “inappropriate, unsuccessful or not in the patient’s best interests.”
“That order said her life was not worth saving,” Redworth said. “She lived life to the full. At Christmas she pulled about 50 crackers. I used to help her, hold her hand, and everybody took their turn.”
Redworth’s brother, Austin, likewise has spoken out about his sister’s alleged treatment on Facebook in a post shared to the Rett UK page. “[T]hey refused to resuscitate her or try to bring her back to us simply because she was disabled and unable to speak for herself,” he wrote. “If she had been normal they would have tried to save her, but because she had rett syndrome she was left to die. She had a right to her little life. There were many doctors and nurses just standing about, watching her, but they did nothing. They are all trained in cpr etc but they wouldn’t help her.” He further said that she was covered in bruises on her arms, legs, and face, and said the NHS “let her die and crushed her family.”
Dr. Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing, an anti-euthanasia group, blamed the liberalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia for issues like these. “Once you remove universal protections, the terminally ill, the vulnerable and disabled people come under pressure, real or perceived, to end their lives and are more likely to have treatments refused,” he told the Times.
The practice of issuing DNRs for people with disabilities without their consent, or that of their family’s, was exposed in a shocking report earlier this year, proving that Redworth’s case is far from rare. In addition to the unethical DNRs, people with disabilities also often receive substandard medical care, with the Sunday Times reporting that people with disabilities who died received health care “that fell so short of good practice that it significantly impacted on their wellbeing or directly contributed to their cause of death.”
Ableism is pervasive in general in the United Kingdom. For example, people with disabilities are targets for late-term abortion, which is banned after 24 weeks for all preborn children, unless they have a disability, even something as minor and easily correctable as a cleft lip. Families routinely report receiving substandard medical care, all of which has led at least one British lawmaker to warn that people with disabilities in the United Kingdom are “facing extinction.”
The reality is that all people have the right to life, even those who are the most vulnerable among us: the preborn, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled.
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