COMPETENCE AND COMMUNICATION : Do Not Resuscitate Decisions in Cancer Care

Abstract: Within cancer care, do not resuscitate (DNR) decisions are frequently made. DNR decisions can be ethically difficult and lead to conflicts of interest and disagreements within the medical team. This thesis brings together empirical knowledge of DNR decisions in cancer care and theoretical discussions on the ethical aspects and the competence needed to make such decisions.The overall aim of this project was to investigate the clinical and ethical aspects of DNR decisions from the perspectives of nurses and physicians working in hematology and oncology care. The methods used were qualitative, with individual interviews, and quantitative, using a web survey. Ethical theories, principles and models were used   in the planning of the studies and to explain and discuss the results.Fifteen nurses in Study I expressed a close relationship with their patients. They expressed how they needed clear and well-documented decisions on DNR to provide good care to patient and relatives. Sixteen physicians participated in Study II. They described how they made decisions on DNR mainly on medical grounds, but reflected on ethical aspects of the decision, weighing maleficence and beneficence.  In Study III, the interviews from Study I and II were analyzed from the perspective of ethical competence. The results showed that physicians and nurses were able to reflect on their ethical competence in relation to DNR decisions and described ethical competence as both being good and doing right. Also knowledge in ethics was emphasized.  In Study IV, 216 nurses and physicians participated. Most respondents thought it was important for patients and relatives to participate in, and be informed about, a DNR decision, but fewer thought that this was likely to happen. Nurses rated the importance higher than physicians did. The most important attributes in relation to DNR decisions for both nurses and physicians pertained more to medical viewpoints than to ethical values.DNR decisions in cancer care can be associated with ethical conflicts of interest, and nurses and physicians have different perspective of DNR decisions which they need to share. Competence in ethics and inter-professional communication are crucial for nurses and physicians participating in such decisions.