Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Informed Consent, and Rescue:

What Provides Moral Justification for the Provision of CPR?

Johan Bester and Eric Kodish

The Journal of Clinical Ethics 30, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 67-73.


Questions related to end-of-life decision making are common in clinical ethics and may be exceedingly difficult. Chief among these are the provision of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do-not-resuscitate orders (DNRs). To better address such questions, clarity is needed on the values of medical ethics that underlie CPR and the relevant moral framework for making treatment decisions. An informed consent model is insufficient to provide justification for CPR. Instead, ethical justification for CPR rests on the rule of rescue and on substituted interest judgments. Patients’ known wishes and values are relevant, particularly in protecting them from unwanted CPR. Clinicians should rescue patients with the means at their disposal, as a prima facie moral imperative, unless there are compelling reasons to refrain. We present a moral framework for making decisions regarding CPR and DNR.



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