Do physicians require consent to withhold CPR that they determine to be nonbeneficial?

James Downar, Eliana Close, Robert Sibbald

Do physicians require consent to withhold CPR that they determine to be nonbeneficial?

Key Points

  • The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently determined that, under both Ontario’s health care consent legislation and common law, physicians do not require consent to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that they believe to be medically inappropriate.
  • Physicians in Ontario need to distinguish carefully between a scenario where CPR would be outside the standard of care and should not be offered and a scenario where CPR is within the standard of care but the physician does not feel it is in the patient’s best interests; each scenario demands a different response.
  • Physicians still have a professional responsibility to communicate (or make reasonable efforts to communicate) honestly and compassionately about the limitations of CPR and the alternatives to aggressive care.

Downar J, Close E, Sibbald R. Do physicians require consent to withhold CPR that they determine to be nonbeneficial? CMAJ 2019 Nov 25; 191 (47) E1289-E1290; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.191196.

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