Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A new way of saving lives...

This is not a real "hot" political topic, but it is interesting to me. In the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. County the EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) will be given the opportunity to NOT do CPR on someone who needs it.

SeattleTimes.Com Article

The article starts out with a case of a 100 1/2 year old woman who had CPR done on her when she has was is called a Do Not resuscitate (DNR) order. According to the EMTs on scene it was expired and therefore they had to react to the patients need for medical attention. So the newspaper finds a crazy case where most people would agree it was silly for the EMTs to try to save a 100 year-old person. That is not my view point, but the target audience is Seattle and I could see them agreeing with that mentality.

Later the article claims "... it was far from an isolated case. Emergency medical responders, long trained that a 911 call is a request for resuscitation, have routinely ignored family members who ask that CPR not be given to their loved ones who are dying of terminal illnesses."

This seems to make out that EMTs are not responsive to people and cold-hearted in the way they will try to force life on someone who would rather die. There is one thing this part does not mention. It says that the family is asking the EMTs to not do CPR, but is there a valid DNR?

Let me lay out a case for you. You're a 70 year-old person who enjoys life for the most part. You, of course, hate kids walking on your lawn so you spend your days sitting on your front porch yelling at the neighbor kids for going on your lawn. But other than that, life is good.

You have a son who is very interested in getting your money. So he is just waiting for you to kick the bucket. On this day he is visiting you when you collapse. 911 is called and EMTs show up. But your son realizes that if he tells the EMTs you want to die, they will not do CPR and you will die. Was that really your wish?

As EMTs we don't know. That is why it must be in writing and signed and valid. Error on the side of saving a life. There are cases where CPR is started because the family does not know where the DNR form is located, but once it is found, the EMTs can stop doing CPR. It is all about erroring on the side of saving a life.

Now this all changes, and for me, in some ways it is worrisome. My last line of defense between me and death is 911. When I call for an ambulance I would expect the EMTs to be patient advocates. They would do anything they can to save a life.

But in a surprising move by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. County, they are actually giving EMTs the ability to let a tax payer die.

"For the first time, EMTs - the first responders to 911 calls - are being given the latitude to forgo resuscitation when they judge it to be "futile, inappropriate and inhumane" - even when there is no official paperwork." -- SeattleTimes.com

So without the patients expressed wishes to be allowed to die, the EMT can decide that you will die. You might have the EMT who is all for assisted suicide. So to him this is a good thing you are dying. To me the EMT should be the patient advocate. Even when the family is sending mixes signals to the health care providers, the EMTs should think about the patient and about saving the patients life. The ambiguity of the words inappropriate and inhumane leave a lot of gray-area.

"So since the patient will never know, someone said, what's the harm in trying?

But one doctor countered that there was plenty of harm: Someone could be revived only to endure more suffering. Families could be traumatized. And medical teams would be wasting time, and money, attempting to revive people who didn't want it." -- SeattleTimes.com

My point-of-view is that is the person does not want it, get a DNR. Have it signed and readily available. If someone is in the end stages of life and do not want to be revived then enter into a hospice. But to change the law on the off-chance that you wanted to die inappropriateate.

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