Health: Leeds man claims ‘do not resuscitate’ talk has its merits

Harold Robinson, of Temple Newsam, with his 'living will'. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
Harold Robinson, of Temple Newsam, with his 'living will'. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
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Harold Robinson has asked doctors not to resuscitate him if he becomes unwell, and wants others to have the same opportunity.

The 87-year-old from Temple Newsam has spoken out about his ‘living will’ after national newspaper reports stated new NHS guidelines had emerged urging GPs to ask all patients over 75 if they would agree to ‘do no resuscitate’ orders.

NHS England has denied issuing any guidance surrounding end-of-life plans for all over-75s and younger patients suffering from cancer, dementia, heart disease or serious lung conditions.

But widower Harold, who survived a battle with bowel cancer a decade ago, believes people in Leeds and beyond should be made more aware of their options in later life.

“Living wills should be known to more people,” the retired policeman said. “People can make out a living will and be given that opportunity but it shouldn’t be forced on people.

“I’ve come across death and it’s not very pleasant. I’ve attended murder scenes and I’ve seen it through the eyes of my cancer, so it’s something I want control of.”

Great-grandfather Harold was first made aware of living wills in 2008, before signing a form in 2010 declaring he would wish not to undergo CPR, ventilation, feeding through a tube or dialysis if his health suddenly deteriorated.

He admitted that people might “jump for joy or feint in horror” at the idea, while stating that the “worrying” suggestion people could be routinely approached on the subject may leave many “scared, worried or distressed”.

A living will fulfils the same function as an advance care plan or advance statement in putting forward your health wishes, although healthcare providers are not legally bound to follow your wishes.

Harold said: “Having lived a very active life I want to go out peacefully with dignity.”

A ‘do not resuscitate’ order is meant to stop a patient suffering unnecessarily when their lives are likely to be extended for only a short period of time. Resuscitation can be traumatic and cause broken ribs or organ damage.

An NHS England spokesman said it would be “unacceptable” to approach over-75s about do not resuscitate orders, adding that any discussions should come as part of an ongoing GP-patient relationship.

The Age UK charity offers support to people looking into living wills, maintaining that talks with health professionals should be held on a patient’s terms and handled “compassionately”.

Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity, said: “Getting the right kind of care and having opportunities to discuss and record your wishes and preferences are things everyone has the right to expect.”