Elderly Woman Denied CPR Raises Ethical Questions

But family is satisfied with care Lorraine Bayless received
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2013 2:04 PM CST
The death of 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless, after a nurse refused to perform CPR on her at a California care home, is raising questions about the ethics of CPR.   (Gurpreet Caur)

(Newser) – The death of an 87-year-old woman in a California retirement community after a nurse refused to perform CPR is raising all sorts of ethical and legal questions. But Lorraine Bayless' family says the woman was aware that there were no trained medical staffers on hand and "had full knowledge of the limitation" of the facility, reports the AP. "We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern," the family says in a statement, but "it was our beloved mother and grandmother's wish to die naturally and without any kind of life prolonging intervention," and she "is at peace." The company that owns the facility, however, says the nurse did not follow proper procedures and the incident is being investigated.

The 2000 Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act provides immunity from civil damages to most people who give CPR or use an automatic external defibrillator, and all states have Good Samaritan laws to protect those performing CPR or using an AED, reports Slate. But just 32% of people suffering from cardiac arrest get CPR from a bystander, and surveys show people are frightened of performing CPR incorrectly, catching a disease from the victim, or even being mugged by a faker. However, the Guardian points out that for the elderly, receiving CPR can actually do more harm than good—the chance of CPR working on the elderly can be as low as 5%, but seniors are much more likely to have their ribs cracked and to suffer from a myriad of long-term health problems if they do survive. (Read more CPR stories.)

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