Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Is discussing futile treatments really best for dying patients?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4180 (Published 24 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4180
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

When US doctors were asked if they would want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the case of major cerebral injury, 90% of them said no thank you.1 CPR, as with all treatments, has limitations and side effects, causing bodily injury and, in terminal illness, a medicalised death. It changes our last minutes from what could be a peaceful process into a medical battleground. And it’s been found to be “futile” in patients receiving palliative care for cancer.2

So it’s a concern that the Court of Appeal has found that doctors breached a British patient’s right to a private life when they added a “Do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” (DNACPR) order to her notes without her knowledge.3 4

Janet Tracey had terminal …

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