Experience with a Revised Hospital Policy on Not Offering Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

HEC Forum 34 (1):73-88 (2020)
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Abstract

Critical care society guidelines recommend that ethics committees mediate intractable conflict over potentially inappropriate treatment, including Do Not Resuscitate status. There are, however, limited data on cases and circumstances in which ethics consultants recommend not offering cardiopulmonary resuscitation despite patient or surrogate requests and whether physicians follow these recommendations. This was a retrospective cohort of all adult patients at a large academic medical center for whom an ethics consult was requested for disagreement over DNR status. Patient demographic predictors of ethics consult outcomes were analyzed. In 42 of the 116 cases, the patient or surrogate agreed to the clinician recommended DNR order following ethics consultation. In 72 of 74 of the remaining cases, ethics consultants recommended not offering CPR. Physicians went on to write a DNR order without patient/surrogate consent in 57 of those cases. There were no significant differences in age, race/ethnicity, country of origin, or functional status between patients where a DNR order was and was not placed without consent. Physicians were more likely to place a DNR order for patients believed to be imminently dying. The median time from DNR order to death was 4 days with a 90-day mortality of 88.2%. In this single-center cohort study, there was no evidence that patient demographic factors affected ethics consultants’ recommendation to withhold CPR despite patient/surrogate requests. Physicians were most likely to place a DNR order without consent for imminently dying patients.

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