DNR (do not resuscitate or no CPR) does not mean do not treat or do not care. A warning for all of us.
I noticed that after my dad became a DNR in the hospital, the nurses didn’t come into the room as often anymore and the doctor didn’t visit the way he used to. Just because my dad didn’t want to have CPR didn’t mean that he still didn’t want to fight his cancer. But it seemed like everybody gave up on him. Did the DNR (do not resuscitate) decision really mean, Do Not Care?
I realize that not only are patients confused about what DNR means (do not do CPR), but nurses and physicians are also confused. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true. Somehow DNR has become a decision about treatment choices instead of just CPR. What DNR should mean is only one thing, do not do cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Research has found that if a patient is a DNR, then healthcare professionals may believe that the patient doesn’t want any other types of aggressive treatment. But this isn’t true. A patient may want chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy or other kinds of aggressive treatments, and still not want to receive CPR. A DNR doesn’t tell you anything about what other treatments the patient might or might not want to receive.
I’m not telling you this to scare you out of being a DNR. Not at all. I am just reminding all of us that one part of the end-of-life decision making process does not dictate everything else we might want. So yes, you can be a DNR and still have appropriate aggressive medical treatments. Or you can be a DNR and choose only to have hospice care. Or you can be on hospice and not be a DNR. Or you can choose some of the medical treatments being offered and refuse others. These are all separate decisions. You get to choose from all of the appropriate medical options available. Choose some, choose all or choose none. It is up to you. The only thing you can’t choose is a treatment that is not a valid medical option. You cannot make the doctor gave you ineffective or non-beneficial treatments. You are only allowed to choose from the list of medically appropriate treatments for your condition.
Lastly, as a reminder to all the healthcare professionals. A DNR never represents a do not care order. We should still be going into their hospital room as often as we would for someone without a DNR. We should always treat the patient with respect and dignity and provide comfort care to manage their suffering.
Have a kind and respectful day.