Many people have come to view cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a routine intervention following cardiac arrest, and they insist on CPR for their loved ones even when the physician explains its likely futility. Physicians who refuse a family member’s request to perform unwarranted CPR risk becoming the center of media, legal, and disciplinary scrutiny. Although CPR is largely perceived as a benign life-saving intervention, it inflicts indignity and possibly pain on a dying patient and should not be used when it is unlikely to succeed or to benefit the patient if successful. The growing acceptance of do-not-resuscitate orders for patients with advanced cancer has not spread to families of patients suffering from the late stages of other degenerative or terminal illnesses. Having blunt discussions about the true consequences and risks of CPR might foster greater willingness to abstain from administering CPR to patients unlikely to benefit.
This article was originally published by HMP Communications LLC (Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging), 05/16/2011.