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Sudden death and resuscitation of a terminally ill person in A&E
  1. Clare Sellwood, Staff Nurse
  1. Accident and Emergency Department, Royal Berkshire Hospital Foundation Trust, Reading, Berkshire. Email: claresellwood{at}


Every day patients suffering from terminal illness are admitted to accident and emergency (A&E) departments. If they become acutely unwell while in A&E, they are often subjected to inappropriately aggressive medical treatment and may be resuscitated if they have a cardiac or respiratory arrest. This may occur as a reaction to the distress that family members express. This article discusses the case of a 62-year-old woman who was admitted to and died in A&E following a catastrophic, irreversible, cerebral bleed. The positive and negative aspects of the incident are explored. Issues surrounding resuscitation, the need for good communication with, and preparation of, families, comfort measures, clinical decision-making and the law are examined. Suggestions for improvement in future practice are made. The patient’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality in accordance with the NMC Code of Professional Conduct (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2004). Conflicts of interest: none

  • Accident and emergency
  • Bereavement
  • Communication skills
  • Ethics and the law
  • Family support
  • Resuscitation

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