The New York State Catholic Conference expressed relief Wednesday, April 22, after the state health department rescinded a statewide do-not-resuscitate order for all patients found without a pulse.
“We were deeply concerned about these new guidelines for first responders,” Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the NYS Catholic Conference, told CNA.
The conference speaks on policy matters on behalf of the bishops of the state.
“A human life is a human life," Poust said. "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.”
The order was rescinded on Wednesday. It had previously been issued on April 17, but received widespread media coverage on April 21.
Before the do-not-resuscitate order was issued, first responders were instructed to spend 20 minutes attempting to revive a patient in cardiac arrest. This was changed, with responders told not to attempt resuscitation at all, after state authorities deemed it “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,” said the New York State Department of Health.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Health explained that the initial guidance was “in accordance with American Heart Association guidance and based on standards recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians” and had been adopted in other, unnamed states.
The new policies, however, “don’t reflect New York’s standards and for that reason DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has ordered them to be rescinded.”
Despite the order to not resuscitate patients in cardiac arrest, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) never changed their policy and its paramedics continued to provide 20 minutes of attempted resuscitation.
The statewide do-not-resuscitate policy was criticized by the head of the FDNY union.
“Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us,” said Owen Barzilay, union president, in comments published by the New York Post.
The order was rescinded shortly after it began receiving negative attention in New York media.
The New York Catholic Conference told CNA they were happy the state moved quickly to change the policy once it became clear that it was deeply unpopular.
“Clearly the state’s first responders were deeply uncomfortable with this new guidance, and rightly so,” said Poust.
“We’re grateful the Health Department quickly rescinded this ill-advised order.”
New York, particularly New York City, has been hit harder by COVID-19 than any other part of the country. There have been over 250,000 identified cases of coronavirus, with nearly 15,000 deaths. New York City accounts for about 142,000 of these cases and almost 11,000 deaths.