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Pandemic has made many doctors less willing to attempt CPR, study finds

27 July 2022

Doctors appear to be more willing to withhold resuscitation from very sick or frail patients since Covid – and have raised the threshold for referral to intensive care, research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggests.

One third of UK patients hospitalised with Covid during the first wave had a ‘Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation’ notice – including many Disabled people who were unaware of the notice.

The latest research reported in The Guardian found that 59% of patients with a DNACPR decision survived their acute illness.

However, the study suggests that the pandemic has not changed doctors views on euthanasia and doctor-assisted dying, with about a third of respondents still strongly opposed to such practices.

The survey canvassed 231 doctors of all grades and specialties in the UK between May and August 2021.

More than half the respondents were more willing not to attempt resuscitation than they had been previously.

Amongst these respondents “patient age” was a major factor informing their decision grew from 50.5% pre-pandemic to about 60%. And the proportion who cited a patient’s frailty rose by 15 percentage points from 58% pre-pandemic to 73%.

The biggest change, however, was in those citing “resource limitation”, which increased by 20 percentage points, from 2.5% to 22.5%.