Why CPR Is No Benefit In SRS

Our dad is 75 and has written “No CPR” in his living will.  My sister says he should have CPR.  What’s best for him?


CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) was developed in 1959 primarily for middle-aged people having a cardiac arrest:  the chest is repeatedly thumped (breaking seniors’ ribs) and a tube is put down the throat for breathing.

A futile or non-beneficial procedure is defined as something that will not help someone achieve their goals. 

The chance of being successfully resuscitated ranges from ‘0’ to 17%; the older one is, the lower the success rate.  Since the goal for most seniors is a peaceful and dignified death; and since CPR is a harsh procedure incompatible with a peaceful end; and since the few who do survive are usually worse off (often on a ventilator); then, CPR is definitely futile and inappropriate for seniors.

Why doesn’t it work?  Physiologically, seniors do not have the reserve to deal with such a failure of their organs:  they usually have multiple chronic problems and when the heart stops, it’s usually a sign that the body is worn out.  CPR (especially in hospice or in a nursing home) offers only false hope when we should be helping families prepare for the final stage in life.

Although there may be signs of approaching death which allows a doctor an opportunity to write
AND/DNR (Allow Natural Death / Do Not attempt Resuscitation), unfortunately patients can have a crisis at any time and receive unwanted CPR.

So, to avoid leaving family with the memory of such a traumatic event, seniors need to tell their families and physicians they want an order for AND/DNR – and put it in their Advance Directive.