Carry health care proxy to refuse resuscitation

If I were 87 years old and went down in cardiac arrest, I would hope that no one would resuscitate me. I believe I have a right to die, as we all will, without interference. It is the natural progression of life.

As a registered nurse, I have seen elderly people suffer painful and prolonged deaths after they were resuscitated, their brains irrevocably damaged from lack of oxygen that often results from cardiac arrest and after CPR attempts.

I carry a copy of my health care proxy in my purse, clearly stating that I do not wish to be resuscitated. My dilemma is that many people who mean well and do not think through the long-term results of their actions would automatically resuscitate me, without looking for a health care proxy. Indeed, speed is necessary to the success of any resuscitation effort. Many health care professionals believe, and their employers may even require, that they must attempt CPR on any and all victims they may encounter, without consideration of the age or relative health of the victim. Indeed, such evaluation, without the known wishes of the victim, would be difficult – leading to policies of automatic resuscitation.

Before my father’s peaceful death at the age of 90, I remember being afraid to take him to church – his only desired outing, for fear that if he went down, some well-meaning “rescuer” would not allow him to rest in peace.

My hope is that when my time comes, whether it be today or 20 years from now, I am allowed to die a natural death, with comfort care only.

Moira Gallagher Schorr, R.N.