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July 11, 1986

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders for Critically III Patients in the HospitalHow Are They Used and What Is Their Impact?

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Drs Bedell and Cleary), and the Charles A. Dana Research Institute (Dr Bedell), the Harvard-Thorndike Laboratory (Dr Bedell), and the Department of Nursing (Mss Pelle and Maher), Beth Israel Hospital, Boston.

JAMA. 1986;256(2):233-237. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380020095030

We studied compliance with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders at a university hospital where a DNR protocol has existed since 1979. Documentation of DNR status in patient progress notes and chart orders increased through 1983. During a 12-month period (March 1983 through April 1984), we studied in detail the medical records of 521 patients who had a cardiopulmonary arrest in the hospital. Seventy-five percent (389 of 521) of these patients were designated DNR. Patients who were designated DNR were significantly more likely to be older, to have malignancy or an abnormal mental status, and to be less likely to have acute myocardial infarction, stroke, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than patients in whom resuscitation was attempted. Eighty-six percent of families, but only 22% of patients, were involved in the decision to designate a patient DNR. The decision to designate a patient DNR occurred late in the course of a patient's illness, often when the patient was in coma. For 28% of patients, some form of medical care was withdrawn or withheld after they were designated DNR. These data suggest that use of the DNR protocol requires changes if patients are to participate in the decision not to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

(JAMA 1986;256:233-237)