This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
Caldwell County school personnel will be barred from complying with doctors’ orders to let extremely ill children die, the Caldwell County Board of Education decided Monday.
The board received one official public comment on the policy during the past month after it was proposed. There was no discussion of the policy on Monday among board members, who voted unanimously to approve it.
A Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR, is a request that no one perform CPR or otherwise resuscitate a patient in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. The school system has not been asked to honor a DNR for any current student, Superintendent Steve Stone said at the board’s September meeting.One parent, Maleah Haas, filed a public comment online in support of the policy.
“The parents alone ultimately take responsibility,” said Haas, who identified herself in the comment as the parent of a medically fragile child. “Part of that responsibility is accepting the fact that other school personnel and students cannot be put in the heart-wrenching position of honoring a DNR order.”
Before the board voted, Stone also referenced another “public comment” on the policy – a letter to the editor sent to the News-Topic by John Worsley of Lenoir opposing the policy. Worsley did not submit an official public comment on the policy, said Kathy Chandler, administrative assistant to the board of education.
“I agree wholeheartedly that school staff and officials shouldn’t have to make decisions about Do Not Resuscitate orders for gravely ill children,” Worsley’s letter read. “That seems to be the whole point of DNR orders. The parents, children and doctors involved have already made that difficult decision. School personnel not only shouldn’t have to make a decision in these situations but they SHOULDN’T make one.”
Pediatric DNRs are common in hospitals and other medical settings – often for children who have terminal illnesses, and sometimes for children with severe disabilities who are so fragile that CPR or other resuscitation efforts may hurt the child more than it could help them. In some cases, parents ask that their child’s school district honor a DNR as well.
Many school systems do not have official policies on DNRs; those who do come down on varying sides of the issue. A 2005 study sponsored by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania found that among a random sample of school districts across the United States, 20 percent had DNR policies.
Forty-seven percent of those policies allowed school employees to honor DNR policies, while the rest, like Caldwell County, prohibited staff from honoring them.