Developed in 1960, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was quickly and widely adopted by the medical profession as a critical life-saving procedure. Given that all end-stage disease processes ultimately result in cardiopulmonary arrest at the end of one’s life, however, CPR was sometimes applied in non-beneficial circumstances or even against patients’ wishes. Originally devised to protect patients from unwanted CPR, the DNAR order is now sometimes unilaterally applied against patients’ or surrogates’ wishes when CPR is felt to be medically non-beneficial. In this presentation, we will explore the historical background surrounding CPR and the DNAR order, examine recent data regarding CPR outcomes specific to older adults, and discuss some of the related ethical challenges, particularly pertaining to the unilateral DNAR order.
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