For the elderly or ill, a DNR order can help ensure death with dignity - Shae Irving JD


image by: Frank DiBona

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Don’t want ‘heroic measures’ as part of your end-of-life care? Have the conversation

For one month this spring, my job as a senior resident in a large teaching hospital entailed racing around the hospital, managing patients who had rapidly become sicker; I wore running shoes every day. I also led every code, orchestrating a team of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and pharmacists in an effort to resuscitate patients after their hearts had stopped. Some of the very sick patients under my care had do-not-resuscitate orders, but most didn’t. For them, my team and I provided whatever treatments we could.

One night, a colleague asked me to see Mr. S, a middle-aged patient with worrisome vital signs.

Arriving at his bedside, my colleague, Dave, and I…

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 Don’t want ‘heroic measures’ as part of your end-of-life care? Have the conversation

There’s no doubt heroic measures save some lives — but they aren’t what everyone wants. That’s why end-of-life discussions are essential for protecting patients and empowering them to make clear, well-informed decisions that let doctors do right by them. It’s absolutely vital that we keep these conversations going.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and POLST

The POLST and DNR are medical orders for individuals in ill health, whereas the advance directive can be created by any decisionally capable adult to express wishes regarding preferences in treatment at the end of life or in response to possible health events.


Typically, people consider a DNR if they have a terminal illness or are at a high risk for cardiac or respiratory arrest. In the words of the Texas law authorizing DNR orders, the document serves allow a person “to forgo resuscitation attempts and … have a natural death with peace and dignity.” You can revoke a DNR order at any time.

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