Patients and the general public considerably overestimate their chances of surviving a cardiac arrest. One of the reasons for this might lie in the findings of a famous study of the depiction of CPR in movies and television. A study found that CPR was shown as being successful over 75% of the time, many times greater than happens in reality. A study by Kaldjian et al. (2009) found that patients think that the probabilities of surviving a cardiac arrest is 60%, whereas actual rates are closer to 17-20%, or even lower depending on age, co-morbidities, peri-arrest variables such as time taken to initiate CPR and other risks such as surviving with permanent neurological damage, and/or needing nursing home care rather than being able to be discharge home. Studies of the morbidity and mortality of in-hospital cardiac arrest show some interesting findings, some of which may surprise you. For example, post-arrest survival-to-discharge rates have not improved very much over the past 40 years, despite changes in technology and practice (Alabi & Haines 2009).
For more details on the epidemiology of CPR, browse the following website.
Consultant 360, ‘Geriactrics, http://www.clinicalgeriatrics.com/articles/Predicting-Survival-From-In-Hospital-CPR.
How does this information affect your assessment of whether CPR is in a patients best interest?
Interpretation can be difficult when the information that you are working with is subjective and not in the form of quantifiable and objective data, such as that derived from physiological signs and symptoms, for example.
This stage of interpretation will also be filtered through the person doing the interpreting; and we know that human beings are not value-neutral when they make interpretations. Each person has had past experiences, both personal and professional, of situations such as this. Each person has personal beliefs and opinions about such matters, perhaps informed by a religion or perhaps not. These past experiences and personal values will affect how the nurse feels about what a patient is requesting. Some nurses may interpret what a patient is requesting as irrational, a product of fear or stress or depression, and call into question his capacity to make such a decision. Others may interpret his/her refusal of treatment as synonymous with a wish to die. The nurses interpretation of these complex factors will have a significant impact on the outcome. Another nurse may interpret things differently and come to a quite different conclusion. This is yet one more way in which a patient is vulnerable in this situation. He is, to a considerable extent, dependent not only on the way others see him but also on their preparedness to act (or not) based on their interpretations.
According to the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt (2000), human beings do not make moral judgments judicially and reasonably; rather, they do so quickly and instinctively, relying on innate intuitions, emotions, and socially and culturally derived perceptions and values. For Haidt, reason comes into play only after we have already made a judgment, and it is used mainly to rationalise or justify the judgment to ourselves and to others. Haidts challenging ideas provide a fascinating insight into the ways in which a reasoning process may be far less rational that we realise.
This situation potentially involves a clash of differing values and moral views. We are often well aware of patients values, but those of the nurse and Drs are much less visible. How might they affect the situation?
• What values do you hold that would influence your interpretation of the information that you have about this situation?
1. What are three of the most important things that you have learnt from this weeks tasks?
2. Identify the full range of specific nursing actions that may have prevented a patient from having CPR against his wishes.
3. Considering your answer to the above, what would you have done in this situation and why?
4. If what you would do is different from what you think you should do, explain why this is the case.
5. What specific further knowledge do you think you need in order to be able to practise ethically and legally in situations involving refusal of treatment?