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Daughter felt father was ‘disposable’ after learning of do not resuscitate order

A woman whose father died of Covid-19 while in hospital said she felt he was viewed as “disposable”.

Melanie Hunter’s father, John Cowan was placed on a do not resuscitate (DNR) order without her consent, despite her having power of attorney, she told the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry.

He died in Ayr Hospital on 8 November 2020, aged 83, due to Covid-19 and pneumonia, the inquiry heard.

Mr Cowan, who lived in a care home with his wife, was originally taken to hospital as a precaution when he first tested positive for Covid-19.

He became “very ill” after a few days, and Ms Hunter discovered a do not resuscitate order had been issued for him without her consent.

Co-lead counsel for the inquiry, Stuart Gale KC, asked Ms Hunter: “Three or four days (after being admitted to hospital), you were told that your father was very unwell?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Mr Gale KC then asked her if she had “also learned about a DNR in relation” to her father.

He asked: “What was your reaction to learning that?”

Ms Hunter, of Scottish Covid Bereaved, said she was “extremely angry”, adding: “I found out through a staff nurse that when they said that dad had taken quite ill.

“I had asked if he will go to intensive care and they said no – a DNR had been signed.”

Mr Gale asked her: “You had a power of attorney?

“I did,” she replied.

Mr Gale asked: “And it was not discussed with you?”

“No,” she said.

The lawyer then asked: “Do you know how it came about that that decision was taken?”

Ms Hunter said: “My personal view was that they just seen a man, 83, dressed for a nursing home, and he was disposable.”

Scottish Covid-19 public inquiry
Lord Brailsford is chairing the inquiry (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Hunter told the inquiry she was able to find the consultant who made the decision to issue the DNR but said he would not speak with her on the phone and instead got a colleague to contact her.

She said she was told if her father had been admitted into intensive care he “wouldn’t survive”.

Mr Gale asked: “What is your view about that?”

She replied: “How would you know that without trying?”

Ms Hunter said her father then died a “horrific death”.

A spokesperson for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: “On behalf of NHS Ayrshire and Arran I would like to take the opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the family of John Cowan, who sadly died after testing positive for Coronavirus (Covid-19) in 2020.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with all those who lost a loved one at this time.

“In order to protect patient confidentiality, and as this is an ongoing inquiry, we are unable to provide any further information at this time.”

The inquiry, before Lord Brailsford, continues.