Thursday, October 9, 2014

Grey's Anatomy Docs Discuss Code Status

For those of us who live, breathe, and get the tingle of excitement talking about advance directives, last Thursday's Grey's Anatomy (Episode 1102 - "Puzzle with a Missing Piece") provided for many rewinds as it became apparent that "the forms" were going to be discussed in primetime TV.  If you're anything like me, your blood pressure rose slightly, a wave of excitement came over you, and you sat on the edge of your seat wondering if they were going to describe the necessity, use, and function of advance directives correctly.

So, what was the outcome? Did Dr. Pierce properly explain to family, the residents, and other physicians, the need and utilization of a "DNR" as the situation unfolded Thursday night?  While those of us immersed in the POLST world shuddered slightly when Dr. Pierce referenced a DNR, instead of the POLST (or MOLST) as is proper in the majority of states, it was equally enlightening to hear advance directive forms being referenced at all in a primetime show.  While maybe not the exact way those of us in the end-of-life arena may have addressed the situation, we all have to admit, anytime a TV show takes on a topic, such as deciding between life and death, it is a win-win for all of us involved.  It's just one more instance, or 30 seconds, or five minutes, that can put an idea in an individual or family members head to have "the conversation" and hopefully get their end-of-life plans in order.

The mother, Marjorie, expressed in the episode, she did not want to be resuscitated should the situation presented itself again.  She had endured fractured ribs from a previous CPR attempt and simply was at her end.  The daughter wished to have her mother in her life for a bit longer. Who is right? Who should those in the medical profession listen to?  The mom who clearly has decisional capacity for herself? Or the daughter who just wants mom to be with her a bit longer? We know the answer is mom, although even though we know what the answer is … the lines sometimes become blurred … or gray.

For the mother on Grey's Anatomy, she was coded, for a second time, when the daughter was out of the room.  While the initial physician in the room, Dr. Meredith Grey, aggressively performed CPR, the treating physician, Dr. Pierce, whom the mother shared her wishes and thoughts with, appeared in the room. Dr. Pierce insisted that Dr. Grey allow her to take over CPR. The mother passed, as peacefully as she could, while Dr. Pierce performed CPR.

Death is not an easy conversation for anyone.  It becomes more challenging, and emotional, when the need is imminent.  The more media coverage ,through either news or entertainment, can address these issues, the higer possibility more people will began having these critical conversations. It is immersing these conversations into our communities which are so vitally important.

Thanks Grey's Anatomy. We look forward to you addressing this topic again.

Ronette Leal McCarthy is Legal Counsel for Elements, the cremation company and is by active on Twitter (@LealMcarthy) supporting end-of-life issues. Which is how this story came about, when Christian Sinclair saw her live-tweeting about this episode!

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