Jazi, a 59 year old man was admitted to the intensive care unit of a large metropolitan hospital with a diagnosis of septicaemia. Jazi was admitted to hospital for further treatment of his leukaemia at which time his PICC line site became red and inflamed.

Communication with Jazi’s doctor occurred after 48 hours of noted redness when pain and a temperature also presented. The PICC line was removed and peripheral access gained. Jazi continued to deteriorate and at the time of admission to ICU he was pale, markedly short of breath, and had a temp of 42. After the ICU physician’s review he was immediately commenced on a regime of intravenous antibiotics. Jazi’s medical history included severe mitral valve stenosis and chronic myeloid leukaemia.

A few hours after Jazi’s admission to ICU, the shift handover occurred for the afternoon shift. During handover, the NUM informed the nursing staff present that she had received a phone call from the treating Oncologist advising the patient was not for resuscitation (NFR). The nurses continued with afternoon handover however they questioned why the patient had been transferred to ICU as he was NFR. Later in the shift the Oncologist called to see Jazi and indicated to him that the treatment plan was sorted and now the focus was to eliminate the source of infection that had occurred. The Oncologist questioned Jazi as to how long the PICC line had been red and sore and Jazi responded that it had ‘been that way most of the time I have been in hospital, however it did get a lot worse over the weekend.’ The Oncologist did not reply to Jazi. He continued to write up his clinical assessment report however did not document the NFR directive which he had phoned through earlier. This oversight was later dealt with by the nursing staff writing the initials ‘NFR’ in pencil, on the top of the nursing care plan.

The intensive care unit became busy throughout the shift and a nurse from another area of the hospital came to assist in the area. This nurse, Pat, discussed with Jazi his condition, what had brought him to hospital and how his family were coping. Throughout the conversation Jazi identified that he really ‘wanted to have further treatment, but they won’t give it to me.’ Jazi was referring to his cardiac valve replacement surgery for which he had been denied surgery recently. Pat questioned Jazi as to whether he had discussed his options with his Doctor. Jazi replied that he has ‘many times but they won’t do it because there is only a 50-50 chance of success.’ Pat questioned Jazi again…’So you would still want the surgery?’ Jazi replied, ‘I sure would, I need to buy some time. My wife is very ill at home, she has cancer and is completing dependent on me. She doesn’t have long to live, and all I want to do is live long enough for her, because she is afraid of being alone.’ Jazi continued with ‘It’s wonderful that the doctors and nurses are doing all they possibly can for me.’

At this point Pat realised that it was highly likely that Jazi had no knowledge of the NFR order verbally established by the oncologist and recorded by the nurses in his file. Pat then went to discuss the matter with Sue, the nurse that had been caring for Jazi. There she asked whether Jazi or his relatives had been involved in the decision making process pertaining to the NFR decision. To this question Sue initially stated that ‘that is not right to worry the patient with the obvious decision, he has leukaemia. We don’t get involved in the decision it is up to the doctor and we’re obliged to obey their orders.’

Pat then attempted to point out that Jazi was of the opinion that he was receiving all the treatment possible to minimise any further health risk to him. He was knowledgeable of his health conditions and was still questioning doctors in relation to cardiac surgery which had been previously denied. One of the other nurses stated ‘doesn’t that just show you that he is in denial to the extent of his medical conditions; he should never have been admitted to an ICU for treatment.’ Pat explained that she did not agree with this and wondered whether the medical staff were aware of Jazi’s treatment preference/s.

As the afternoon shift progressed, Jazi experienced a number of bradycardic episodes with his heart rate dropping to 42bpm at the lowest point. The arrhythmia would have been responsive to intravenous atropine, however this was never ordered. The resident and clinical nurse on duty decided not to treat the arrhythmia as Jazi was documented NFR. Fortunately, Jazi reverted spontaneously to a rate of 90 – 95bpm. Jazi continued throughout the evening shift to have episodes of bradycardia, but each time spontaneously reverted to a rate of 90 – 95bpm.

Several days later, Jazi’s temperature decreased to within normal limits. He stated he felt better and couldn’t wait to see his wife and go home.

Assessment Framework –
Use the Kerridge, Lowe and McPhee’s (2005) modified ethical decision-making framework (below) to examine the facts from this case study in light of their ethical and legal issues.

Remember you need to make comments from a nursing perspective

Clearly state the problem/s