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Handbook for Mortals : Resuscitation (CPR)

The many meanings of "DNR"

Deciding whether or not you want a DNR order sounds so simple. And yet, this decision often causes much anxiety for families and health care providers. Why? Because these decisions are usually put off until the patient is too sick to be a part of the conversation. And making the decision means acknowledging that you are likely to die. To hospital staff, the DNR decision is a sign that things are pretty bad.

Yet it is important that this decision be made. Without a written order, doctors and nurses will attempt resuscitation. Picture of a bracelet with a do not resuscitate order on it Nurses and doctors who are likely to have to try the resuscitation are reasonably upset over the prospects of having to do such a brutal procedure with little chance of success. So, if you are the patient or family, you have some real control in this situation. First, figure out whether you really want resuscitation tried, on the basis of its chances of success and how you would prefer to die. Then, if you want no resuscitation but you don't want to be counted as one who has given up, insist that the doctor write an order that makes that clear. State clearly what you do and do not want done. Then the doctor can make clear in the record that you want no resucitation but you do want diagnosis and treatment for anything else that occurs.


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