Peer Reviewed

End of life care

Legal Pearls: Does a DNR Order Supersede a Living Will?

  • An 81-year-old nursing home resident was brought to the emergency department of the local hospital due to shortness of breath. He had a long list of serious conditions, including a recent intracranial hemorrhage.

    After a computed tomography (CT) scan showed massive blood clotting in the patient’s lungs and congestive heart failure, the physician explained the situation to the patient and his family, including his three adult children. The patient stated that if something were to go wrong, he did not wish to be resuscitated.

    The operation itself went well, but a few hours later the patient suddenly stopped breathing while his family was in the room. The physician stopped a nurse from performing CPR, despite the patient’s son urging them to try reviving him. Several months later, the physician was notified that he was being sued for the wrongful death of this patient.

    Was the physician at fault?

    (Answer and discussion on next page)