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.