Becoming a Do-Not-Resuscitate Patient

Whenever I encounter new medical providers at any level of care, they are often surprised to discover that I have a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order and I’m not even age 40 yet.

However, that usually changes once they’ve heard a bit of my medical history.

What is a DNR order?

A DNR is a medical order that informs your healthcare providers that you do not want CPR attempted in the event your heart stops beating or your breathing stops.1,2

I signed my DNR order in 2017, but I wanted one much earlier than that – in truth, all the way back to 1995. However, one must be a legal adult with a sound mind to enact a DNR order in the United States unless it is enacted by an individual’s healthcare agent (like a durable power of attorney or healthcare proxy).

At some point, when I reached legal adulthood, I discussed becoming a DNR with my then-pediatric GI specialist, who was able to persuade me not to complete the legal document. And then, in 2017, I told myself that I was an adult and I could do what I wanted regarding my healthcare decisions.

How I became a DNR patient

I downloaded the DNR form from my state’s health department and signed it in front of 2 witnesses. I provided a copy to all my providers and involved family members and placed copies on yellow paper on my fridge, in my car, and in my purse.

I updated my advanced directive and durable power of attorney to reflect my DNR, ordered a DNR bracelet for myself, and have never looked back.

Disclaimer: A DNR bracelet is not legally binding in my state; only a DNR order is. I wear a DNR bracelet to notify emergency responders of where to find my DNR.

This is a serious decision

Becoming a DNR is not a decision to take lightly as it means that one is legally stating their wishes not to be revived by means of CPR if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating. CPR can include chest compressions, electric shock to restart the heart, medicines, and breathing tubes.1

If someone is of sound mind and their healthcare decisions are not managed by a selected healthcare agent, a person with a DNR can revoke their DNR by destroying the original and notifying all providers and anyone else who may have a copy of the DNR to destroy it.2

This or That

Do you (or the person you care for) have a DNR?

Instances where my DNR does not apply

I have found there are times when a person’s DNR will not be respected – mainly in the outpatient settings when undergoing outpatient procedures. In such instances, I’ve been told that CPR would be started on me, and when I’m transferred to the Emergency Department (when already in the hospital setting) or when emergency responders arrive, then my DNR will be followed.

At one hospital, when undergoing an outpatient procedure, my DNR was allowed to be followed in the outpatient setting, but I had to sign another form stating that was what I wanted during the procedure.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the pros and cons of CPR and being a DNR patient. Advance directives, durable power or attorney, and DNR forms are often available through a state’s health department, and physicians/hospitals should also have forms available.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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