You have been assigned the care of a 98-year-old woman who was recently admitted with a diagnosis of pneumonia with history of cardiac disease and takes several medications. She had been active until the past few days, when her cough worsened, and a fever developed. You note that her pulse has become weak and threadlike and that her respirations are increasingly laboured. The patient is now too weak to respond to you. When you mention to the family that you may need to call the physician and send their mother to the hospital for further medical interventions, the patient’s son and daughter become distraught, saying that they do not want their mother to be kept alive on “machines.” They informed you that they have discussed this situation with their mother, however, her wishes have not been documented in her chart. The family members also have not discussed this situation with the patient’s primary physician.
What actions would you consider taking at this moment?
Consider the ethical principles of autonomy and beneficence and the idea of futile care.
What are your personal values about interventions at the end of life?