End of Life Decisions: All About the Do Not Resuscitate Order

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Do you want to be resuscitated in case you stop breathing or your heart stops? Or, do you have a DNR order? These are common questions that older individuals and chronically ill individuals are asked about. They’re usually posed when being admitted to a nursing facility, hospital, or hospice care program.

But what do these somewhat controversial questions mean exactly? Here are some DNR order FAQs:

What is a DNR Order?

A DNR or Do Not Resuscitate order contains written instructions from a doctor to inform healthcare professionals not to do CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This resuscitation technique utilizes machine or mouth-to-mouth breathing combined with chest compressions for restoring lung and heart functions when an individual’s breathing or heart has stopped.

CPR is a rescue technique that was designed to save the lives of individuals who are generally healthy. It’s important to note that healthcare providers will start CPR during an emergency if you don’t have a DNR order.

Why Should Patients or Families Decide About CPR?

Everyone has the moral and legal right to refuse or accept medical treatments, which include CPR. As with many health care aspects, decisions regarding medical treatments should be made together by patients, doctors, and other relevant health care professionals. In case of incapacitation, a family member or a health care proxy assigned by the patient will speak on behalf of the patient.

What Happens During CPR?

Basic CPR involves timed mouth-to-mouth breathing for restoring lung function and vigorous chest compressions for restoring heart function. Advanced CPR could include extra interventions such as:

  • Medicines: These are usually drugs for controlling blood flow, heart rhythm, and blood pressure, and are administered intravenously.
  • Cardioversion: This uses controlled electrical shocks to alter the heart’s rhythm.
  • Mechanical Ventilation: This uses a machine to give the lungs air.
  • Intubation: This entails inserting a tube into the nose or mouth to aid breathing.

Why Would Someone NOT want CPR?

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In a nutshell, CPR is an extremely vigorous procedure that isn’t always successful. Generally speaking, CPR doesn’t work for individuals who have a widespread infection, widespread cancer, or other kinds of terminal illnesses. Also, individuals might not want CPR in the following scenarios:

    • There’s no expected medical benefit. CPR simply isn’t meant for individuals who have severe health issues or are terminally ill.
  • The individual’s quality of life will most likely suffer. In some cases, though individuals may survive following CPR, they may suffer severe and/or permanent damage to their organs, causing them to be dependent on machines to stay alive. This particularly applies to very frail and ill elderly.
  • Death is imminent. Individuals suffering from terminal illnesses might not want to experience aggressive interventions and prefer a peaceful and natural death.

How Do I Decide If I Want CPR or Not?

As with all decisions about health care, the decision to forgo CPR and have a DNR order must be made based on your own preferences and values as well as potential treatment options and medical facts. This crucial discussion should include doctors, family members, and other relevant health care professionals.

Speak to your doctors to find out what they would advise, taking into account everything they know about your case and possible scenarios. Really dig deep to get to your truth and speak to your loved ones and friends. You can likewise consider talking to a therapist and other professionals if you need to make a decision for a loved one.

If you or a loved one truly wishes not to be resuscitated, you should take the proper steps to make certain that your wishes will be honored. Speak to your doctor about a DNR order.

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