The following commentary was submitted by Bill Hendry, president of the Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation; Tom Kluzak, the foundation’s scientific director; Jed Delmore, its medical director; and Carolyn Harrison, a board member:
Recent news about the death of an 87-year-old resident of an assisted-living facility in California emphasized that a nurse refused to give CPR. The 911 tape prompts some questions, most importantly: What did Lorraine Bayless want done if her heart stopped that day?
Is there a lesson we can learn?
Bayless told her family she didn’t want anything done if her heart stopped. The nurse was firm that she was not going to initiate CPR. The family is not in conflict with what happened that day.
If dying happens to all of us, and it does, shouldn’t we talk about how we want this last chapter of our lives to play out?
Talk to your physician and your family about what is important to you regarding end-of-life care. If you have a chronic or terminal illness, you should be considering a conversation with your physician and family about your care.
If you do not wish to have CPR performed, complete an advance directive called a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) form. This will prevent resuscitation (chest compressions that attempt to get the heart to beat again). If you become unable to make decisions for yourself, a DNR order can be written by a physician.
Take a first step. Think about and decide who can make decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself in a health care situation.
Second, talk to these people about your preferences regarding end-of-life care. Talk about how far to go and when to let go. Then complete a durable power of attorney for health care – an advance directive form that appoints someone to speak for you when you cannot.
Talk about Bayless and her situation. What would you want done if your heart stopped? Bayless may have taught us a lesson from which we can all learn.
Kansas advance directive forms are available at http://www.wichitamedicalresearch.org/. Advance directives include durable power of attorney for health care, living will and do not resuscitate. The Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation also offers notary services.