Scenario 1: CPR Decisions

The hospital doctor has told us that – because of mum’s advanced disease – they would not provide CPR if she had a sudden heart attack. I don’t understand why we should go along with that.

  • Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a technique used to restart the heart and restore breathing in a patient whose heart has stopped beating and/or who has stopped breathing. It may involve chest compression, electric shocks to the heart using a defibrillator, injection of drugs into the bloodstream, fitting a mask to the face to provide oxygen and placement of a tube into the airway to assist breathing.
  • CPR is most useful for healthy people who have had a sudden collapse e.g. drowning, heart attack or electric shock. Survival rates following CPR for frail older people with multiple health problems or severe dementia near the end of life is less than 1%.
  • Such people who do survive CPR will often deteriorate further in their condition and their quality of life. They are likely to receive further intensive treatments that will be painful and intrusive. The person may not be able to have quality time with their loved ones before they die.

A person’s doctor may issue a ‘No-CPR Order’ if it is clear that CPR would be unlikely to succeed and lead to a reduced quality of life for the person. Normally, this would only happen after discussion with the patient and/or their family. The person will continue to be given comprehensive, quality care, short of CPR.