Bioethics Blogs

Suicide Attempt Does Not Mean DNR

The Collège des médecins du Québec, the professional order of physicians in Quebec, has just issued new guidance on how to deal with patient admitted after a suicide attempt.  

Apparently, some doctors were interpreting suicide attempts as an implicit refusal of treatment — even though a treatment spread out over a few days could have saved them with no, or almost no, after-effects.  (National Post)

The Guidance advises: “It would be negligent not to act.”  Treatment should be withheld only in cases where a physician has “irrefutable proof” of a patient’s wishes in the form of an advance medical directive or a do-not-resuscitate order.

Of course, there remains an ongoing debate (much of it revolving around the Kerrie Wooltorton case) about whether the advance directive or DNR order of a patient who just attempted suicide should be considered “irrefutable proof.”  But at least we can all agree that we should not draw inferences about patient preferences from the suicide attempt itself.  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.