Do Not Resuscitate Orders

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What is an Advance Directive?

A 1991 federal law, the Patient Self-Determination Act, requires that patients be informed about their right to participate in health care decisions, including their right to have an advance directive. Advance directives fall into two broad categories: instructive and proxy:

  • Instructive directives allow for preferences regarding the provision of particular therapies or classes of therapies. Living wills are the most common examples of instructive directives, but other types of instructive directives, such as “Do Not Resuscitate”, are also employed.
  • The proxy directive, generally a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC), allows for the patient to designate, in advance, a surrogate medical decision maker who can make medical care decisions for the patient if the patient is incapacitated.

What is a Do-Not Resuscitate Order?

A Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) instructs medical personnel, including emergency medical technicians and paramedics, not to perform CPR or use any other “heroic measures” in the event their heart or breathing stops.


Are advance directives legally binding?

Advance directives are recognized in one form or another by legislative action in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If the directive is constructed according to the outlines provided by pertinent state legislation it can be considered legally binding.

State Law, Youth-Serving Organizations, and the problems with DNR requests:

  • The majority of state laws grant immunity to medical personnel who withhold CPR. The problem for youth-serving organizations is that they may not qualify as “medical personnel” as defined by their state’s statute.
  • It would be virtually impossible for an organization to ensure that all full- and part-time staff and all volunteers at all locations always knew about each and every DNR request the organization had agreed to honor.
  • An organization that agreed to honor a DNR request could be held liable for significant damages if a staff member who was unaware of the request administered CPR and the victim did not recover fully.

What is Redwoods’ position?

Organizations should inform members that they will not recognize or accept DNR requests. In the event of a medical emergency, an organization should follow all its emergency procedures and protocols for all members, guests, and staff until the EMTs or Paramedics arrive. If the staff responding to an incident is aware of a DNR request, it should be presented to the EMT and Paramedic who should decide on whether to withhold further live saving measures.

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