DNR stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.” A person who does not wish to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed may make this wish known through a doctor’s order called a DNR order. A DNR order addresses the various methods used to revive people whose hearts have stopped functioning or who have stopped breathing. Examples of these treatments include chest compressions, electric heart shock, artificial breathing tubes, and special drugs.

A patient with a DNR Comfort Care-Arrest Order will receive all the appropriate medical treatment, including resuscitation, until the patient’s heart has stopped beating or the patient has stopped breathing.  If either of these events happens comfort care will be provided. By requesting a DNR Comfort Care Order (DNR-CC), a patient chooses other measures such as drugs to correct abnormal heart rhythms. With this order, comfort care or other requested treatment would be provided at a point even before the heart or breathing stops. Comfort care (also described as symptom management or palliative care) involves keeping the patient comfortable with pain medication and providing palliative care. A DNR-CC does not mean “do not treat.” Your doctor can explain the differences in DNR orders.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) frequently is not successful or does not benefit those who receive it, especially elderly people or those with serious medical conditions. Even if revived, the person can be left with painful injuries, or in a debilitated state, or with brain damage resulting from oxygen deprivation. Resuscitation can involve such things as drugs, forcefully pressing on the chest, giving electric shocks to restart the heart or placing a tube down the nose or throat to provide artificial breathing.

If you do not want CPR, you should talk to your family, your doctor and fill out appropriate paperwork indicating that you and a DNR order.  These forms are commonly available.  Go to www.odh.ohio.gov.    If you do want to receive CPR when it is medically appropriate, you don’t have to do anything.  Emergency squads and other health care providers must provide CPR whenever a person is without heartbeat or respirations. If you do not want CPR, you always have the right to refuse it (or any other medical treatment), but there is a good chance that you won’t be able to state your wishes when an emergency happens.

It is a good idea to give your doctor and your loved ones a copy of your advance directives and DNR Identification Form before an emergency arises. If you are a patient in a hospital or nursing home, the DNR order should be in your medical chart. You or your family also should notify the medical staff that you have such an order any time you are admitted to a facility or are transferred from one facility to another. If you are receiving care at home, you should tell your family and caregivers where to find your DNR order and post it in an easy-to-find place, such as your refrigerator door. You also may want to ask your doctor about getting DNR identification such as a wallet card or bracelet that tells medical personnel you have a DNR order.

If you are not able to express your wishes, other people such as your legal guardian, a person you named in a health care power of attorney, or a family member can speak for you. You should make sure these people know your desires about CPR. If your doctor writes a DNR order at your request, your family cannot override it. You always have the right to change your mind and request CPR. If you do change your mind, you should talk with your doctor right away about revoking your DNR order.  Both living wills and DNR orders deal with end-of-life decisions, but they are different. You may complete a living will document yourself even when you are healthy. Your living will document specifies in advance the kind of medical treatment you would want if and when you have a terminal illness or are in a permanently unconscious state and are no longer able to state your own wishes.