Despite empirical evidence that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is of questionable effectiveness in elders with comorbidities, it continues to hold a unique place in the armamentarium of life-sustaining treatments in that consent for CPR is implied and, when needed, is administered emergently. These conditions of implied consent and emergency implementation often preclude an opportunity for patients/surrogates, in conjunction with their nurses and physicians, to determine the appropriateness of the intervention, given the patient’s medical and functional status. Healthcare providers who perform CPR on elderly patients often find themselves in morally distressing circumstances because of their anecdotal knowledge of poor outcomes and realization that a multitude of barriers has precluded an anticipatory discussion regarding appropriateness of the treatment. Nurses and other healthcare providers must take the lead in helping patients/surrogates appreciate the meaning of CPR as a life-sustaining intervention and ensure that each patient’s situation receives the ethical reflection deserved for each individual as a matter of human dignity.

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