Do-not-resuscitate orders Ethical aspects on decision making and communication among physicians, nurses, patients and relatives
Abstract: The purpose was to describe ethical aspects on how do-not-resuscitate (DNR) deci-sions are made, established, and communicated between physicians, nurses, patients and relatives. A random sample of 220 physicians and nurses answered a questionnaire about their attitudes to and experiences of the making and communication of a DNR decision. The re-sponse rate was 73%. Twenty seriously ill patients, and 21 relatives of patients who died with a DNR order, were interviewed. The literature on medical futility was searched for conditions for futility and moral consequences. The results showed that many physicians and nurses are uncertain about the rules and ethics of DNR orders. There are discrepancies between guidelines and attitudes regarding DNR orders, as well as between attitudes and behaviour. Seriously ill patients estimate open and straightforward conversations about treatments in the end of life. Relatives seem to get acceptable information and counselling. Conditions and consequences of medical futility may be approached in a new clinical way. There are numerous possible ethical conflicts within and between the principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and the virtues and ideals of the profession. Start a dialogue about end-of-life support with chronically ill and elderly patients, and their relatives, while they still are capable of understanding and authorisation. The clinical conversation model may make it easier. All involved should understand why certain deci-sions are made. Conditions and consequences of futility should be ascertained together with the patients, the relatives and the staff, after which a joint decision can be reached.
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