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New York State rescinds DNR order for EMT personnel


Roman Tiraspolsky | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 04/24/20

"Human dignity demands reasonable effort be made to save a person’s life," state's Catholic bishops say.

The Catholic bishops of New York State have applauded the reversal of a policy that prohibited ambulance drivers from making every effort to revive cardiac patients.

The policy, issued by the state just three weeks ago, was meant to reduce EMT crews’ ecposure to COVID-19 and extra burdens on hospitals dealing with the pandemic.

“Clearly the state’s first responders were deeply uncomfortable with this new guidance, and rightly so. We’re grateful the Health Department quickly rescinded this ill-advised order,” the New York State Catholic Conference tweeted Wednesday. “Whether a person is sick with COVID-19 in a hospital or in cardiac arrest in his or her apartment, human dignity demands reasonable effort be made to save that person’s life, absent a do-not-resuscitate order.”

On Tuesday, the New York Post reported that New York State issued guidelines last week “urging emergency services workers not to bother trying to revive anyone without a pulse when they get to a scene.”

While paramedics were previously told to spend up to 20 minutes trying to revive people found in cardiac arrest, the change is “necessary during the COVID-19 response to protect the health and safety of EMS providers by limiting their exposure, conserve resources, and ensure optimal use of equipment to save the greatest number of lives,’’ according to a state Health Department memo issued last week.

The move was initially blasted by the leader of a union for ambulance drivers.

“They’re not giving people a second chance to live anymore,’’ Oren Barzilay, head of the city union whose members include uniformed EMTs and paramedics, fumed of state officials. “Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us.”

The New York State Bureau of Emergency Medical Service defended the DNR policy, saying it was proposed by “physician leaders of the EMS Regional Medical Control Systems and the State Advisory Council — in accordance with American Heart Association guidance and based on standards recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians and adopted in multiple other states … and reflected ‎nationally recognized minimum standards.”

But the bureau on Thursday then said the guidelines “don’t reflect New York’s standards and for that reason DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has ordered them to be rescinded.”

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