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Understanding DNR Orders

Healthcare provider talking to woman in hospital bed and man standing next to bed.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders tell hospital staff not to perform potentially life-saving measures, such as CPR, if the person’s heart and lungs stop working. In many states, a DNR order also applies to staff outside the hospital (in nursing homes and emergency medical services). A DNR order must be written by a healthcare provider (or, in some cases, certain other healthcare workers). This can only be done with the person’s or family’s consent. If a person has not written an advance directive, their family will decide on a DNR with the help of the healthcare team.

The person can cancel a DNR order at any time. The healthcare team can answer questions about the DNR form. Have copies of a DNR form are readily available so that your wishes can be faithfully followed.

The person can cancel a DNR order at any time. The healthcare team can answer questions about the DNR form. Have copies of a DNR form are readily available so that your wishes can be faithfully followed.

Writing a DNR order

When might a DNR order be written? When the person’s health condition is such that, in the case of cardiac arrest, CPR and other resuscitation methods are not desired. This could be because the chance of successful resuscitation is very low. , Or it could be because the care plan now focuses on comfort measures instead of life-sustaining measures. Coma and terminal illness are instances when a DNR order might be used.

Irreversible coma

In a coma, a person does not respond to sight, sound, or touch. The heart and lungs could be working, but brain function is damaged due to trauma or disease.

Terminal illness

In the last stages of heart disease, AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses, some people don’t want to prolong their suffering. If recovery isn’t likely and quality of life is poor or getting worse, a person or their family may agree to a DNR order.

DNR orders and hospice care

A hospice program can offer care during the final weeks of life. Hospice programs provide pain control and comfort care in the home or at special facilities. Hospice does not provide aggressive treatment. In fact, a DNR order will likely be discussed before a person is admitted to hospice. A social worker or case manager may be able to help you arrange for hospice support.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.