A GRIEVING husband says he is convinced that a Do Not Resuscitate note placed on his wife’s medical file accelerated her death.
Norman Marshall, 68, from Ferryhill, County Durham, said he wants to speak out against what he describs as the "insensitive" use of DNAR (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) notes in NHS hospitals.
Despite Department of Health guidance which stresses that patients and their families should be consulted when doctors are considering imposing a DNAR order, Mr Marshall said his seriously ill wife, Jean, was approached without any other family member being present.
"My wife, Jean, was in Darlington Memorial Hospital in December 2011 as a result of her recurring breast cancer," said Mr Marshall.
"She was receiving treatment and although not well she was able to chat with me during my twice daily visits and on occasions was very upbeat.
"One morning, while she was alone, my wife was handed a DNAR order by one of the doctors who asked her to read the information."
When Mr Marshall arrived for afternoon visiting he said his wife was "in a state of terror and panic".
From that day, Mr Marshall said her state of mind deteriorated "significantly" and she began having "continuous panic attacks" which she had not experienced before being handed the DNAR note.
Mr Marshall said his wife continued to suffer panic attacks until she died at home on January 2, 2012.
Mr Marshall was moved to contact The Northern Echo after reading the recent story of Alan Cargill, a 69 year old cancer patient who was also approached by a doctor and issued with a DNAR while he was on his own, on a ward in Darlington Memorial Hospital.
Mr Cargill, from West Cornforth, County Durham, told The Northern Echo that the experience was frightening.
he said: "He terrified me, to be truthful. It is bad craic for something like that to happen when you are that ill."
Mr Cargill, who has now left hospital, was particularly concerned that the conversation took place without any other member of his family being present.
After taking legal advice, Mr Cargill, told the hospital he did not want to order to apply to him and tore up the document.
Despite NHS guidelines about the issuing of DNAR notices Mr Marshall said the family were not invited to be present when the DNAR order was issued.
"As far as my daughter and I are concerned, that morning played a significant role in the death of my wife," he said.
He said he hoped that the "distressing situation" his wife experienced would not repeated with any other patient at the County Durham and Darlington hospital trust.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association told The Northern Echo: "There have been far too many cases where healthcare professionals have failed to facilitate proper conversations with relatives and patients about how, when and why a DNAR order may be used. "
She said hospitals need to ensure there are open discussions about end-of-life care involving patients and relatives.
No-one from County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was available to comment.