Assessing Decision Making Capacity for Do Not Resuscitate Requests in Depressed Patients: How to Apply the “Communication” and “Appreciation” Criteria
The Patient Self Determination Act (PSDA) of 1991 brought much needed attention to the importance of advance care planning and surrogate decision-making. The purpose of this law is to ensure that a patient's preferences for medical care are recognized and promoted, even if the patient loses decision-making capacity (DMC). In general, patients are presumed to have DMC. A patient's DMC may come under question when distortions in thinking and understanding due to illness, delirium, depression or other psychiatric symptoms are identified or suspected. Physicians and other healthcare professionals working in hospital settings where medical illness is frequently comorbid with depression, adjustment disorders, demoralization and suicidal ideation, can expect to encounter ethical tension when medically sick patients who are also depressed or suicidal request do not resuscitate orders.