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Medicolegal Aspects of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiac Care (ECC)

Kevin M. McIntyre, MD, JD
JAMA. 1980;244(5):511-512. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310050075017.
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The National Conference on CPR and ECC that was held in Dallas in September 1979 developed standards and guidelines for the performance of ECC. Included was a panel on medicolegal aspects that defined areas of legal vulnerability and made certain recommendations. Two aspects of the medicolegal panel's deliberations deserve special attention by anyone involved in CPR and ECC. These two aspects involve (1) decision making, primarily the decisions to initiate, withhold, and terminate CPR, and (2) the quality of performance if the decision to initiate is made.

Decision Making in CPR  Decision making at the point of either initiation or termination of CPR is equivalent to defining whether the cardiac arrest victim should be pronounced dead or could and should be resuscitated. Guidelines for such decisions should be clear, consistent, and easy to implement. They should not be arbitrary. The touchstone of the legal propriety of such decisions is good


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