Monday, June 23, 2014

No Code, Slow Code, 45 Minute (Purgatory) Code: Responsibility and Accountability in Attempted Resuscitation from Death

Physicians can abdicate their responsibilities as reasoned guides for patients making decisions at the end of life and as gatekeepers of resuscitation practices in many ways:

  • By failing to address "Code Status" at all, letting patients be "Full Code" by default (and by failing to work as a profession to reconsider or change the default)
  • By asking, in a matter-of-fact manner, "if your heart stops, do you want us to do CPR to try to restart it" without discussing the probability of success and the likely outcomes, both immediate and longer term, in the (often unlikely) event of success
  • By failing to probe the reasons why a code status election that is at odds with their (and/or the nurses') judgment has been made; i.e., taking for granted the legitimacy of a Full Code declaration when doing CPR will clearly or likely be futile
  • By discussing the issue of code status solely from an agnostic position, as though there is no right or wrong election, when in fact the physician has a strong belief about what is appropriate and what is not (such as Full Code nonagenarians, elderly patients with hemorrhagic stroke, those on the ventilator with multisystem organ failure, those with metastatic cancer, etc.)
  • By defaulting to a Slow Code as a dissimulating compromise for the conflict between the documented code order and their sense of what is medically appropriate
  • And the topic of this post:  by conducting a 45 minute code without reevaluating, during that time interval, the premises upon which the Code Blue was initiated, and without integrating the new information that accrues during the resuscitation attempt