Imagine you have a terminal condition that will most likely take your life within a few months, yet still have full capacity to make all health care and other decisions in your life. You are admitted to a health care facility for a routine overnight treatment and a physician places a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order on you without your knowledge and against your consent. A DNR order means no attempt at resuscitation will be made to revive you should you suffer sudden cardiac and/or respiratory arrest. You disagree with the order, and ask the doctor to make an attempt at cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should you need it, the doctor refuses.

Would this concern you? This was the experience of an Anchorage couple with Providence Alaska Medical Center reported to my office this past October.

The Health Care Decisions Act, codified in Alaska Statute, 13.52.100(c) states: An individual who is a qualified patient, including an individual for whom a physician has issued a do not resuscitate order, has the right to make a decision regarding the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other life-sustaining procedures as long as the individual is able to make the decision.

In a recent meeting with the Providence Executive Leadership Team, I was told that the doctor always has the last word on a DNR order, regardless of patient consent. Providence maintained this was true even if the patient had full capacity to make all their own health care decisions and understood the risks and benefits of an attempt at CPR. The law states otherwise. I was more than a little surprised at Providence position on this issue because they declare in their mission and core values statement that all people are created in the image of God and that life is a gift from God.

The recent ADN article concerning the authority of a patient to consent to a DNR order being placed on them was disingenuous, with an overt attempt to marginalize this bill by linking the matter to abortion. It was inaccurate and missed the point of the discussion in the state Legislature entirely.

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Categories: Alaska News

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