January 4, 1985

Deciding Against Resuscitation: Encouraging Signs and Potential Dangers

Author Affiliations

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Georgetown University Washington, DC

JAMA. 1985;253(1):77-78. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350250085029

One of the most important developments in medical ethics of the last decade has been the increasing recognition that there are times when it is unnecessary, even wrong, to resuscitate seriously ill patients. The American Medical Association's Judicial Council makes clear that this is its view when it says that "with informed consent a physician may do what is medically necessary to alleviate severe pain, or cease or omit treatment to let a terminally ill patient die, but he should not intentionally cause death."1(p9) The lay population seems to agree. Both secular philosophers and spokespersons for most of the major religious traditions now agree with the recent report of the President's Commission on Ethical Problems in Medicine that states that "a competent and informed patient or an incompetent patient's surrogate is entitled to decide with the attending physician that an order against resuscitation should be written in the chart."