One of the most common questions healthcare providers should ask patients or caregivers is whether they want to consider putting a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) or “No Code” order in place for themselves or for their loved one. It’s one of the very first decisions that should be made for a seriously ill patient. It’s also one of the most difficult decisions a family will have to make, even if the loved one has made his/her wishes plainly known. The decision to not attempt to resuscitate someone is not the same as to choosing to allow them to die or denying the patient necessary or appropriate care until death occurs, but. The reality is that unless there is a DNR in effect, medical providers are required by law to attempt to resuscitate, regardless of the prognosis or whether or not continuing treatment is futile.
There are many misunderstandings about DNR orders. One of the most common is that a DNR order will mean that treatment or care will be withheld from the patient. ‘No Code’ does not mean ‘no care’. A DNR order simply tells medical personnel that if the patient’s heart stops beating or stops breathing, no attempt should be made to revive the patient by cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or mechanical means. It means that when the person’s body stops functioning naturally on its own, no extraordinary mechanical or drug means will be used to try to revive the patient. Life will be allowed to stop naturally.
Of course, the first ones to discuss any plans for DNR would be your family so that they are aware of your personal wishes. Consult your doctor if you have any questions or, if you plan on or expect hospitalization in the near future, be sure to ask questions about DNR.
Click here for a DNR Fact Sheet.
Read a Seattle Times Article Hospitals balking at “Do Not Resuscitate” wristbands (click the link).