BMA guidance

Decisions relating to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

Joint guidance from the BMA, Resuscitation Council (UK) and Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on decisions about CPR – including decisions not to attempt CPR.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Friday 13 August 2021
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

This guidance, produced jointly with the Resuscitation Council (UK) and the Royal College of Nursing, sets out the legal and ethical factors you need to consider when making a decision about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – including a decisions not to attempt CPR (DNACPR).


What you'll get from this guide

  • An outline of your legal and ethical obligations when making a decision about CPR.
  • A clear framework for your decision-making process.
  • Detailed practical guidance about the factors you should take into consideration in any decision about CPR. 


How to use this guide

​This guidance will provide you with the key legal and ethical considerations you need to take into account when making a decision, and signposts to other sources of support and information.

It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion. You can seek additional advice on specific dilemmas from the BMA’s medical ethics and human rights department, the GMC, or your medical defence organisation. 

  • Decision-making framework
  • Helping patients in advance care planning
  • Human Rights Act and Equality Act
  • Decisions not to attempt CPR
  • Balance of benefits and burdens
  • Who should be consulted about CPR decisions
  • Refusals of CPR by adults with capacity
  • CPR in under 18s
  • Patient information about CPR
  • Responsibility for decision-making
  • Communicating decisions to other healthcare providers