Is it worth creating an Advanced Health Care Directive if a hospital issues a blanket “do-not-resuscitate” order?

It has been reported in several newspapers that there are whispers and some outright discussions about hospitals and states issuing blanket “do not resuscitate” orders for patients having coronavirus. (source)

It seems to make sense, right? As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow across New Jersey, local hospitals are struggling to keep up with the numbers of infections. We’ve heard the horror of what’s occurring in hospitals in Italy, Spain, New York City, Seattle. Hospitals are overwhelmed, doctors and nurses are on the front lines, and there aren’t enough masks, gloves, or other protective equipment to go around. They’re saying they’re “at war with no ammo.” (source)

Closer to home, health commissioner Judith Persichilli expects that New Jersey will experience the surge in infections in mid-April – which is only two weeks away. (source). On March 28, 2020, Governor Murphy set aside $146 million to help New Jersey hospitals prepare for the expected surge. (source) The bulk of the plan, $67.3 million, is set to cover the costs of patients who don’t have medical insurance.

If the health commissioner is right that we’re only two weeks away from the surge that is overwhelming New York City, Italy, Spain, and other places, what will happen if New Jersey hospitals become as overwhelmed as they do? Will New Jersey medical professionals consider issuing blanket DNR’s for victims of COVID-19?

Currently, which is all we’ve got right now, Geisinger Health System, which includes 13 hospital campuses across New Jersey and Pennsylvania confirmed to CNN in a written statement that they “do not plan to override patient or family wishes.” (source).

The statement went on to say:

“A critical part of the policy will be consultation with patients and families to discuss the course of treatment in the event of life-threatening complications, … We do not plan to override patient or family wishes, but rather our goal is to have these conversations proactively with families early on during treatment so there is uniform understanding of care that is safe and compassionate for patients, families and staff alike.”

Geisinger Health System

It’s good to hear that our current health care providers currently have no plans to not follow medical directives. But we have to understand that this is an evolving health care crisis and our medical professionals are doing the best that they can.

There are a few things that you can do between now and two weeks from now to protect yourself and make sure that your family and loved ones can continue to help you.

First, remember that no every person who contracts COVID-19 will end up in the hospital.

Second, stay home, wash your hands, listen to the advice that our health commissioners and medical professionals keep telling us.

Third, create your health care directive. Even though not every case is serious enough to result in hospitalization, the cases that are serious enough to require you to be in a hospital are serious enough to require you to think about your future medical care.

It’s time to sit down with your loved ones and discuss the medical treatment that will best meet your wishes. You can get your Advanced Medical Directive here, which will help guide your discussions with your family.

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