End of life decisions are never easy, and they can be controversial. There are those who want to fight for every minute that they can have here with their loved ones. There are also those who do not want their agony prolonged when it comes to the point where their bodies are giving up. Regardless of what group people belong to, everyone seems to agree that fighting or not fighting death is his or her right. Unfortunately, some nursing home patients have lost that right when they needed it the most.
Two Deaths, No Resuscitation
Tragedy has struck two nursing home residents and their families in recent months, one in Michigan and one in Minnesota. Both patients died at the nursing homes where they lived, and neither one was given CPR or brought to the hospital.
- An 80-year old woman died in a Michigan nursing home, Laurels of Sandy Creek, after the staff failed to try to revive her. The woman, Doris Robbins, had given written orders to the medical staff to resuscitate her and do everything possible to keep her alive. On the day of her death, Doris was reported as having medical distress at 10 am that morning. Nurses did perform some procedures, but did not call or alert the doctor in charge of her condition. At 3:45 pm she was found deceased in her bed. No CPR was performed, nor was an ambulance called. The police were not even notified of her death.
- A man died at a Minnesota assisted-living group home for the mentally diminished, Dungarvin Minnesota, on March 27, 2012. The man began coughing and an ambulance was called. It was determined that he needed CPR, but the group home staff thought the man had a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. No CPR was done and the man was never even moved to the ambulance before he died. Sadly, the man did not have a DNR order. The staff confused him with someone else.
Both of these deaths are examples of what can happen when nursing homes do not put their patients wishes first. Although both homes will say these are tragic accidents, it is of little comfort to the families who lost loved ones.
The same also happens going the other direction. A person with a DNR may be resuscitated and kept alive when their wishes are to be allowed a natural death. Many cases have been brought to light where nursing home patients had a DNR on file but were rushed to the hospital and revived against their will. In these cases, the additional pain, suffering and costs that the patient specifically wanted to avoid were endured regardless of their wishes.
Nursing homes need to show better respect for their patients’ end of life wishes. Since most patients will spend the rest of their days in a facility once they are admitted, these homes have an obligation to make sure their final wishes are adhered to.
More more information about the obligations of nursing homes to follow end of life orders: