A “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order is a legal document that lets doctors and medical personnel know that you don’t want life-saving treatment, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), during an emergency.
How do you want your doctor or first responders to proceed if you stop breathing? Some people wish to be revived at all costs, while others prefer to continue into a natural death.
If you want to make sure that medical professionals won’t revive you, create an official DNR form.
What Does DNR Mean?
The abbreviation, DNR, stands for “Do Not Resuscitate”, which is a medical directive that means to not bring someone back to life or consciousness in the event they become unresponsive.
Signing a DNR means that you don’t want doctors or emergency personnel to perform CPR if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating.
Depending on your location, a DNR might also be known by one of the following names:
- Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR)
- Allow Natural Death (AND)
- Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
- Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)
Every state implements its own DNR laws, so make sure you understand your state’s requirements.
What Does Resuscitate Mean?
Resuscitation is the process of using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to correct a lack of breathing or heartbeat in an ill patient. CPR refers to the resuscitation of the heart via chest compressions and artificial ventilation.
Medical professionals are legally required to perform CPR to restart your heart and save your life — unless a DNR order has been issued.
Basic CPR techniques involve a series of aggressive chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing in order to stimulate the heart and promote normal breathing.
Medical professionals may also use:
- A Defibrillator – a device that helps restart the heart through an electrical shock
- Intubation – an invasive technique that involves forcing tubes into the body to deliver oxygen through the airways
Although it might seem like allowing resuscitation is always the best choice, there are many people with debilitating conditions or illnesses that lead them to create a DNR form.
What Types of Resuscitation Will a DNR Form Prevent?
A DNR Order will stop the main forms of resuscitation that are used to revive the heart:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
As long as you have a DNR form, health professionals aren’t legally allowed to attempt these life-saving techniques.
Common DNR Patient Candidates
The most common DNR patient candidates include:
- Older adults
- Those with a chronic illness
- Hospital patients with terminal conditions
Although CPR can save lives, it’s a vigorous emergency procedure that may cause further complications.
Weak or fragile patients may suffer painful injuries during CPR or be left in a worse condition.
Other times, CPR doesn’t work at all and can prolong suffering — particularly for patients with widespread infection or cancer.
Standard DNR candidates fall into one of the following three situations:
- CPR is not expected to provide a medical benefit (such as for people with severe health problems or a terminal illness).
- CPR would cause a significant reduction in quality of life (such as widespread brain damage or dependency on a breathing machine).
- Death is expected soon, and the patient prefers a natural death rather than aggressive interventions.
What Does a DNR Include?
A DNR document is typically included as part of a living will. Keep in mind that even if your living will or advance directive states that you don’t wish to be resuscitated, only a formal DNR document has the power to stop resuscitation efforts.
After discussing the implications of a DNR with your doctor, you’ll need to include the following information in your document:
- Your name
- The name of your legal representative (if any)
- You physician’s name and phone number
- The signature of witnesses, a notary, or both
- The state governing the order
- The date
- Physician statement directing the DNR order
- Patient statement declaring the DNR desires
Of course, creating your DNR won’t help if your doctors and health professionals aren’t aware of its existence. Distribute copies of your DNR to any medical specialists who may care for you.
How to Get a DNR Form
Before the internet, getting a DNR form required making an appointment with an attorney to draw up expensive paperwork and sign forms.
Today, it’s easier than ever to get a DNR document using an online DNR form builder.
Simply enter your information into the builder, print the customized paperwork, and sign it with your doctor. In less than five minutes, you can state your desires for end-of-life care.
Take the time now to ensure you have control over one of the most important personal decisions you can make.