February 22, 1995 in City

Refusing Cpr Shouldn’t Take A Note From A Doctor

Barbara Morrissey Special To Opinion
 

I come from a family of individuals with amazing hearts and circulation. The odds of my needing cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the near future are rather small.

But a recent article in this paper caught my attention when it said doctors lack guidance when deciding whether to resuscitate someone in cardiac arrest.

Being a conscientious consumer - and having an interest in seeing that my small estate goes to my nieces instead of a hospital - I decided to find out how to provide that guidance.

My research has been interesting.

First, the success rate of CPR is dismal. Most people who receive CPR are not going to be in shape to live their lives as before. Most of them, in fact, will not survive.

Even patients whose cardiac arrest was witnessed in a hospital, where CPR was initiated at once, have only about a 25 percent chance of survival to discharge.

OK, maybe that’s irrelevant. None of us leaves this world alive.

Maybe we just have the right to say that if death shows up in the form of cardiac arrest, for Pete’s sake, leave me alone.

Guess again. Only your doctor can make that call. You have to request that CPR not be instituted so he can have some guidance. But even if this is your stated wish, it is unlikely it will be granted unless you are terminally ill or very old.

Emergency medical technicians in the field legally operate under a thing called “implied consent.” It is assumed that anyone would want the maximum done to restart a heart and breathing. So the only way EMTs will not start CPR is if they know someone has a doctor’s order not to do so.

There is something wrong with this.

I don’t think I must accept a treatment that probably won’t work and I don’t want anyway just because I can’t get a doctor to agree with me.

A lot of people are grateful for that implied-consent business. Many more never give the whole thing a second thought.

But it is about time for me and those who feel the same way to have the right to refuse this treatment without having to ask a doctor. We could wear some sort of ID band or bracelet that states we reject CPR efforts and expect our request to be honored.

Think about it, legislators - this could save some money.

MEMO: “Your Turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a column for consideration, call Rebecca Nappi/459-5496 or Doug Floyd/459-5466.

“Your Turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a column for consideration, call Rebecca Nappi/459-5496 or Doug Floyd/459-5466.


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