I was working at my part-time job the other day, and we got into a lengthy discussion about Do Not resuscitate orders and when to honor them versus when to treat a patient.  Today, the conversation continued and we came up with an interesting scenario, and I wanted to see what everyone out there thought both from a moral/ethical stand point as well as a legal one.
Here’s the story:

You are called to the home of an 80-year-old male who lives alone.  His neighbor frequently checks on him.  Today, his door is locked, which is unusual.  Your unit arrives at the same time as the fire department who is there to help you gain entry and assist with patient care.

You enter the patient’s apartment and find him supine on his couch.  His breathing is clearly agonal and you cannot detect a pulse.  In plain view sitting on the coffee table in front of him are the following:

  • A bottle of hydromorphone which was filled two days ago.  The cap is off and the bottle is empty.
  • An appropriately filled out Do Not Resuscitate order which clearly states that the patient does not wish to have CPR performed on him.
  • A suicide note stating that he had been recently diagnosed with cancer and does not want to live anymore.  It outlines what he would like to be done with his personal effects.

What would you do?  Would you start CPR on the patient?  Would you honor the DNR?  Does the suicide attempt void the presence of the DNR?

Normally, I would expect a bunch of comments on this topic to say “I would contact medical control to see what they would like me to do.”  While I understand that, I would like to know what YOU would do as a provider.

Also legal folks, I know you’re out there, what do you think?