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Hospitals consider changes to do-not-resuscitate situations amid coronavirus pandemic

March 27, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: Doors leading into the Emergency Department, St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx on March 23, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the United States, some hospitals are considering whether to make changes to their policies and practices in efforts to protect their staff.

A do-not-resuscitate order, also known as a DNR, is a medical order that tells health care professionals not to perform CPR if a patient stops breathing or their heart stops beating.

If the patient isn't able to have such a discussion, the patient's family can make that choice. Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during a briefing on Thursday the country doesn't need a blanket DNR for coronavirus patients.

"That's one of the big concerns: how likely is survival in a patient and what is the risk to the health care workers as a result of the resuscitation," CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on New Day on Thursday morning.

Geisinger Health System, which includes 13 hospital campuses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, confirmed to CNN in a written statement on Wednesday that conversations about whether to change DNR practices are taking place within its hospitals, but that "we do not plan to override patient or family wishes. "

Northwestern Medicine, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Illinois, also told CNN in a written statement on Thursday that "similar to many health systems around the country and the world, we are conducting internal discussions on how to care for patients with COVID-19.

"A blanket DNR order is not helpful in this situation, nor for other situations going forward because I think it opens the door to DNR orders for subgroups of patients or patients with particular conditions being reasonable policies and I don't think that makes sense," Kass said.

Kass added, though, that she thinks that patients shouldn't have the right to request medical care that doctors think is not likely to be helpful in any circumstance, not just related to coronavirus patients.

In the United States, Kass said that she thinks systems often err on the side of allowing families to request "a remarkable number of things" that physicians may not necessarily believe could help a patient -- and that conversation is particularly relevant to the Covid-19 response since medical personnel are put at great risk due to shortages of protective equipment.

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