If your heart stopped, would you want to be resuscitated?

If you are not ill at the moment, this may not seem very relevant but if your beliefs or wishes mean this is really not OK for you, you should record this.

Being resuscitated may become a much more critical issue for someone who’s had a stroke or suffers from another condition and has no desire for their quality of life to deteriorate further. In this case, resuscitation may feel like prolonging the agony – sustaining a poor quality life when all signs suggest it’s time to go. If that’s how you feel, record this in an Advance Decision to take as much control as possible.


There is a medical instruction that must be kept on your medical records if you should NOT be resuscitated in the event of accident or collapse because the procedure would put you at risk:

  • adult form: DNACPR – Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
  • children/young people form: CYPADM – Children/Young People Acute Deterioration Management

CPR is chest compression, electric shock or artificial ventilation – breathing through tubes. It’s fairly drastic and distressing to the system: it can break bones if you’re fragile. It’s not something that should be given to a child or adult who is in the advanced stages of a condition like cancer. Having this instruction on your files doesn’t affect other treatment you might receive that would help you. Talk to your GP about it and discuss the outcome with your your family or friends so they understand what it means. (Family can’t make that decision for you at the time of an emergency.) Patients have said it’s a relief to make a decision – put your mind at rest and feel you have some control over what’s happening to you.

Parents or carers who are faced with making this critical decision for a child or young person might find this government information helpful: see the downloadable patient/carer factsheet.


In the US a “physician order for life-sustaining treatment” (POLST) is a new document that is sweeping quietly across the country. A medical order, signed by a doctor, it specifies wider patient’s goals when end of life is near: not just resuscitation but views about hospitalization, use of antibiotics, hydration, intubation and mechanical breathing ventilation.

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