Should there be a choice for cardiopulmonary resuscitation when death is expected? Revisiting an old idea whose time is yet to come

J Palliat Med. 2002 Feb;5(1):107-16. doi: 10.1089/10966210252785079.


Since closed chest cardiac massage was introduced in 1960, the notion that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) attempts are not appropriate for all patients has been consistent. Over the years, leading authorities have clearly articulated that for patients who are dying irreversibly and expectedly medical decisions for do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders should be made by physicians, because in such cases CPR attempts are not indicated. Physicians are not obligated to and should not offer or provide useless treatments, even in the name of patient autonomy. Despite this, physicians still seek and obtain patient or proxy consent when CPR is not indicated before writing a DNR order. Reasons include fear of legal repercussions/misconceptions, limited physician-patient relationships, time constraints, and institutional culture. End-of-life plans of care should be based on appropriate goals that focus on palliation and not on aggressive medical treatments that offer no benefit.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Medical Futility*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Resuscitation Orders*
  • Withholding Treatment*