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Do not resuscitate (DNR)

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)


If a patient is an inpatient in a hospital or nursing home, generally all life sustaining treatment will be rendered in the case of patient arrest unless a physician has written an order not to resuscitate the patient. Those are known as “Do-Not-Resuscitate” (DNR) orders. Patients who had living wills or durable powers of attorney which indicated that the patient did not want life sustaining treatment have been resuscitated in hospitals in emergency situation because the advance directives were not available. In response to this perceived problem, some states have passed legislation permitting physicians to write DNR orders which individuals wear as armbands or carry was wallet cards. These actual physicians’ orders to not resuscitate the patient are to be honored when a patient reaches the hospital or nursing home. The laws also address the immunity from liability for healthcare providers that follow such orders.

Excerpt from Susan O. Scheutzow, Patient Care, in FUNDAMENTALS OF HEALTH LAW 59, 72 (American Health Lawyers Association 5th ed., 2011).

Common Areas of Concern

Distinguishing between DNR Orders and Advance Directives (also known as living wills, powers of attorney for healthcare, healthcare directives) is important. A DNR is only a piece of the broader health care directives a patient may execute. A DNR can stand alone. There must be a doctor’s order for a DNR.

Excerpt from Kathleen A. Hessler, Decode the Documentation Puzzle: Putting the Pieces Together & Managing Risk, Long Term Care & the Law (American Health Lawyers Association Feb, 2007).