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Am J Bioeth. 2011 Nov;11(11):8-12. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2011.603793.

Should the "slow code" be resuscitated?

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Children's Mercy Bioethics Center, 2401 Gillham Road, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA.


Most bioethicists and professional medical societies condemn the practice of "slow codes." The American College of Physicians ethics manual states, "Because it is deceptive, physicians or nurses should not perform half-hearted resuscitation efforts ('slow codes')." A leading textbook calls slow codes "dishonest, crass dissimulation, and unethical." A medical sociologist describes them as "deplorable, dishonest and inconsistent with established ethical principles." Nevertheless, we believe that slow codes may be appropriate and ethically defensible in situations in which cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is likely to be ineffective, the family decision makers understand and accept that death is inevitable, and those family members cannot bring themselves to consent or even assent to a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. In such cases, we argue, physicians may best serve both the patient and the family by having a carefully ambiguous discussion about end-of-life options and then providing resuscitation efforts that are less vigorous or prolonged than usual.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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