Futile Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for the Benefit of Others: An Ethical Analysis
Nursing ethics 2011 Jul; 18(4): 495-504
It has been reported as an ethical problem within prehospital emergency care that ambulance professionals administer physiologically futile cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to patients having suffered cardiac arrest to benefit significant others. At the same time it is argued that, under certain circumstances, this is an acceptable moral practice by signalling that everything possible has been done, and enabling the grief of significant others to be properly addressed. Even more general moral reasons have been used to morally legitimize the use of futile CPR: That significant others are a type of patient with medical or care needs that should be addressed, that the interest of significant others should be weighed into what to do and given an equal standing together with patient interests, and that significant others could be benefited by care professionals unless it goes against the explicit wants of the patient. In this article we explore these arguments and argue that the support for providing physiologically futile CPR in the prehospital context fails. Instead, the strategy of ambulance professionals in the case of a sudden death should be to focus on the relevant care needs of the significant others and provide support, arrange for a peaceful environment and administer acute grief counselling at the scene, which might call for a developed competency within this field.
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