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The Horizon Health Authority has revised its resuscitation policy. (CBC)

The Horizon Health Network is changing its resuscitation policy and is urging people to consider what level of care they want if they are in a health crisis.

The province’s largest health authority is now offering people a new form that lists the four different options they have in the event they are in an emergency situation.

Dr. Pam Mansfield, a palliative care doctor at The Moncton Hospital, who helped revise the resuscitation policy, said patients used to have limited options.

Under the previous policy, she said patients could pick between being resuscitated or not during an emergency.

Now they are being given a choice about different levels of care they can choose to have, which can range from full life-saving attempts to comfort measures only. 

Mansfield said patients should not get upset if they are given the resuscitation policy form from their doctor.

"Most people think, ‘Oh no, they're talking to me about this it must mean the doctor knows something they're not telling me.’ And that's not the case," she said.

Starting the conversation

Doctors are now starting to have conversations with their patients about what level of care they would like to have if their health suddenly takes a turn for the worse.

Dr. John Li, a family doctor in Moncton, said he is placing forms about resuscitation instructions in some patients’ files so he can talk to them about planning ahead.

"I want to start the discussions before they end up in hospital," Li said.

"Another thing is important for them to take their time to talk to their spouses, talk to their significant others, talk to their children particularly to let them know what their wishes are."

It is that conversation that Mansfield said she hopes the new policy will help foster in doctors’ offices and in homes.

She said it is important for patients, families and doctors to discuss what the options are and to demystify the subject of resuscitation orders.

"That is, I think, the critical thing that this policy is hopefully going to accomplish and that making this an everyday normal conversation and making sure that patients and families talk about this often," Mansfield said.

"And talk with your families about what your wishes would be so then again when you get into a critical situation at least we have guidelines for making our decisions."