Decision making in CPR: attitudes of hospital patients and healthcare professionals

Med J Aust. 1998 Aug 3;169(3):128-31. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1998.tb116012.x.


Objective: To examine the opinions of patients and healthcare professionals regarding the process of making decisions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Design and participants: A cross-sectional survey of 511 healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses and allied health professionals) (64% response rate) and 152 patients (58% response rate) at the John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales, in June 1994.

Main outcome measures: Opinions on who should be involved in CPR decision making; what issues are important when making the decision; and how these decisions should be communicated.

Results: 80% (95% confidence interval [CI], 72%-86%) of patients and 99% (95% CI, 98%-100%) of healthcare professionals (P<0.001) thought patients' views should be taken into account when making CPR decisions. More patients (29%; 95% CI, 22%-38%) than healthcare professionals (14%; 95% CI, 11%-17%) indicated that doctors should be the main decision makers. Two-thirds of respondents regarded the patient's wishes, diagnosis and quality of life as important factors. Most respondents (82%) felt comfortable discussing CPR, but only 29% (95% CI, 22%-37%) of patients and 57% (95% CI, 52%-61%) of healthcare professionals had actually discussed CPR with others (P<0.001). More than half of all respondents preferred to express their wishes about CPR in writing (47% [95% CI, 39%-55%] of patients, 69% [95% CI, 64%-73%] of healthcare professionals; P<0.01); the others preferred to tell a family member or close friend. Most patients (60%; 95% CI, 52%-68%) and healthcare professionals (85%; 95% CI, 81%-88%) wanted their views in their medical records (P< 0.001).

Conclusion: Most patients want to be involved in CPR decision making and many want some form of advance directive. Although there are some differences in opinions between patients and healthcare professionals, both perceive decision making at the end of life as a shared process, primarily involving the patient and doctor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Participation*
  • Resuscitation Orders*