Recently, there was a story about an 87-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack in a nursing home. The nursing home called 911 and the dispatcher begged the nurse to do CPR on the patient until the paramedics arrived. The nurse on duty refused as it was against the nursing home's policy. This policy was roundly attacked by Orthodox rabbi and educator Rabbi Yair Hoffman who equates the denial of emergency medical treatment to murder. Rabbi Hoffman's analysis, however, seems at odds with those of Rav Moshe Feinstein who, in his responsa at Iggros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat Pt. 2 No. 73:1, outlines various circumstances in which a terminally-ill patient could be denied medical treatment. Comparing the two points of view seems to require that we need more information about the original patient, including, whether the patient gave the nursing home advanced instructions not to take drastic measures to save her life -- an instruction commonly known as a "DNR" (Do Not Resuscitate) order.
In making decisions about the care of our elderly or terminally-ill family members, especially for those who can't speak for themselves, what information do we need to know before (a) signing up with a nursing home/hospice facility, and (b) speaking to a rav about specific care issues?