Nurses in Britain to be given power over resuscitation

Under new guidelines experienced nurses in Britain will be given the power to decide on the resuscitation of patients; it is thought the move will avoid the "heartache" many families experience over what are often futile efforts at revival.

The Royal College of Nursing said its members were often in the best position to decide if someone should receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or be left to die in dignity.

The guidelines which were published last week will extend the power of judgment in such matters to "suitably experienced" nurses; currently it is only consultants and family doctors who are allowed to make that decision.

The new guidelines signal an agreement by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing and the Resuscitation Council; they aim to prevent the "unnecessary" resuscitation of patients who would not benefit.

Regardless of how it may be portrayed in films and television, the reality of CPR is that survival rates can be as low as 5% for certain individuals and the Resuscitation Council says it can be a prolonged and traumatic procedure.

Health professionals say that decisions about CPR may be extremely distressing for patients and those emotionally close to them.

According to the new guidelines each patient should be individually assessed and a plan of treatment communicated to all healthcare professionals who come into contact with them.

Dr. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says very often it is the nurse who has the closest bond with the patient and their family and is in the best position to decide if CPR is in their interest.

Dr. Carter says CPR is not the miracle cure all TV dramas would have us believe and in reality survival rates are very low.

Dr. Carter also says the guidance has the backing of doctors and the Resuscitation Council and should help spare patients and their families the heartache and indignity of repeated and sometimes futile resuscitation attempts.

The guidelines stress that the only nurses with this authority should be those that are suitably experienced and also clearly states that it is not always appropriate to distress a person who is dying, perhaps in the last few days of life, by discussing attempted resuscitation when clearly CPR would not be successful.

The new guidance also has the support of the Patients Association.

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