Do Not Resuscitate, with No Surrogate and No Advance Directive: An Ethics Case Study

Jamie Diamond, Umesh Gidwani, and Rosamond Rhodes

Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders are typically signed by physicians in conjunction with patients or their surrogate decision makers in order to instruct healthcare providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Both the medical literature and CPR guidelines fail to address when it is appropriate for physicians to sign DNR orders without any knowledge of a patient’s wishes. We explore the ethical issues surrounding instituting a two-physician DNR for a dying patient with multiple comorbidities and no medical record on file, no advance directives, and no surrogate decision maker. Through this case we also highlight the issues of poor prognostication and the reversal of a DNR in such circumstances.


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