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ETHICS IN MEDICINE   University of Washington School of Medicine

Do Not Resuscitate Orders:
Case 1 Discussion

Medical futility means that an intervention, in this case CPR, offers no chance of meaningful benefit to the patient. Interventions can be considered futile if the probability of success (discharged alive from the hospital) is <1%, and/or if the the CPR is successful, then the quality of life is below the minimum acceptable to the patient.

In this case, Mr. H would have a somewhat lower than normal chance of survival from CPR, based on his quadriplegia (homebound lifestyle is a poor prognostic factor) and his mild pneumonia (in cases of severe pneumonia and respiratory failure survival is <1%).

Furthermore, his quality of life, while not enviable, is not without value. Since he is fully awake and alert, you could talk with Mr. H about his view of the quality of his life. You could share with him the likely scenarios should he have an arrest and need CPR. After this discussion, Mr. H can tell you if he would like to have CPR in the event of an arrest or not.

One cannot say on the basis of the current situation that CPR is futile. A decision about resuscitation should occur only after talking with the patient about his situation and reaching a joint decision.

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