The guidelines tell doctors to weigh up the benefits and risks of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when a patient stops breathing or the heart stops beating. They should consider the damage to vital organs that could be caused by CPR and take into account the likely views of the patient about the lasting medical consequences of being brought back from the dead.
Under the old rules, a decision not to resuscitate had to be made by a hospital consultant or GP. The new guidelines extend the power to consultant nurses and specialists in palliative care.
David Pitcher, of the Resuscitation Council, said survival rates after resuscitation were as low as 5% in some circumstances, and patients' families were often given over-optimistic expectations by television dramas.
Dr Pitcher said: "It is not always appropriate to distress a person who is dying, perhaps in the last few days of life, by discussing attempted resuscitation when clearly CPR would not be successful."
Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said: "The primary role of medicine is to benefit patients and when treatment can no longer achieve this, it is good practice to avoid further invasive and burdensome interventions.
"CPR also carries the risk of internal fractures and ruptures and there is a risk of long-term brain damage ... Health professionals need to be honest with patients about the likelihood and the level of recovery they can reasonably expect if CPR is attempted." Link