As medical technology continues to advance and we develop the expertise to keep people alive in states undreamt of even 20 years ago, there is increasing interest in the ethics of providing, or declining to provide, life-sustaining treatment. One such issue, highly contentious in clinical practice as well as in the media (and, through them, the public), is the use of do-not-attempt-resuscitation orders. The main group of patients affected by these orders is older people. This article explores some of the arguments regarding who should make the decision to implement such an order, with particular reference to older people and the unique issues they face in relation to resuscitation. The author concludes by arguing that official guidelines, while representing an ideal, are not easily applied in a typical acute setting where decisions regarding resuscitation are most commonly made, and makes suggestions as to how they may be implemented more successfully.
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Competing interests: None.
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