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What is a Do Not Resuscitate Order?

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is written by a doctor and informs health care providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if someone’s heart stops beating or if they stop breathing.  The doctor writes the order only after talking about it with the patient (if possible) or the patient's family. DNR orders are generally put in place in advance of a medical crisis.

A DNR order relates specifically to the commencement of CPR. It does not prevent other life-saving interventions, such as antibiotics.  People generally establish DNR orders when they are close to the end of lives or dying from a terminal illness from which there is no chance of recovery.

Each state also has its own rules regarding DNR orders outside of a hospital’s or doctor’s care. In many states, only the completion of a state-sponsored form that is co-signed by a doctor will prevent paramedics from attempting CPR.  They do not recognize advance directives or living wills as valid DNR orders.