COVID-19 has been responsible for 65 per cent of recent deaths of people with learning disabilities.
Young people with learning disabilities are 30 times more likely to die from COVID than those of the same age without learning disabilities.
These shocking statistics, coming out of the UK and reported in The Guardian are not the result of those with learning difficulties being less able to follow COVID-safe practices. Rather, the statistics appear to be due to alarming rates of discrimination against those with learning disabilities.
Mencap is an organisation that advocates and supports those with learning disabilities, connecting with a network of more than 300 local groups to reach people across the UK.
Mencap has been receiving reports that people with learning disabilities have been told that they would not be resuscitated if they fell ill with COVID-19. This confirmed prior reports from the Care Quality Commission. According to The Guardian:
“The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year.
“DNACPRs are usually made for people who are too frail to benefit from CPR, but Mencap said some seem to have been issued for people simply because they had a learning disability.”
Mencap chief executive, Edel Harris, described the treatment of those with learning difficulties during the pandemic:
“Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support.”
Despite the increased risks, people with learning disabilities have not been prioritised in the delivery of vaccines. Harris commented:
“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out.”
There is no medical reason that people with learning disabilities should be dying at such high rates from COVID. The only reason it is happening is because those with learning difficulties are denied the care they deserve.
This treatment of those with even mild disabilities demonstrates the inherent inequity within health systems, and consequentially, the inherent risks to the most vulnerable.
If health systems cannot even protect the vulnerable against wrongful deaths when state-sanctioned killing is not possible; imagine the risk to them afterwards.
The only way to protect the vulnerable against wrongful death is to not legalise it.