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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM

California nurse refuses to perform CPR on dying 87-year-old

Some don’t want to be resuscitated

About the article regarding not doing CPR on the independent-living 87-year-old resident in California: What if one living in Washington state has filled out a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form with instruction not to be resuscitated [“ ‘We always start CPR,’ medical official says,” page one, March 5]?

Such a directive was not mentioned but I know of several people with such a document in independent-living facilities in Washington state (not on hospice or palliative care). Are these directives to be ignored?

I have read of one such case who was perturbed to have been resuscitated, but did not blame the resuscitators. I heard of another caretaker in an independent living facility who insisted on resuscitation efforts on one who had signed a do-not-resuscitate order, but it was not successful.

I understand being on hospice precludes resuscitation. I am under the impression it even precludes treating urinary-tract infections or taking medicine you were already taking to control blood pressure, etc., or getting IV fluid replacement, even as a comfort-giving measure.

In my mind there is a lot of gray area. And also, do people understand once they go on hospice they will not see their doctors who have been caring for them up to that point?

–Adelaide Loges, Bothell

Don’t blame the nurse

News that a nurse in a California senior-living facility refused to perform CPR on a dying 87-year-old resident has generated considerable criticism. Most people seem to think that the nurse was in the wrong and that CPR should have been administered.

However, Ken Murray, M.D., in an article titled “How Doctors Die,” in the March/April 2013 Saturday Evening Post, informs that doctors “want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen — that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR.” Dr. Murray says that’s what happens if CPR is done right.

The deceased’s family would, it seems, agree with Dr. Murray. They have told reporters that the their elderly relative, Loraine Bayless, would not have wished to have CPR administered and say they have no intention of suing the retirement home. In some instances it may be a kindness to withhold CPR and simply be a comforting presence as a person goes “gently into that good night.”

A wise old soul once told me that there are a lot of things worse than death and if you can time it right, a heart attack isn’t a bad way to go. Perhaps Loraine Bayless timed it right.

–’Lyn Fleury Lambert, Bellevue

0 Comments | Topics: CPR, Medicine, seniors

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