Last updated on: 4/23/2018 | Author:

What Is a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR)?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor’s Note: An advance directive is a set of instructions given ahead of time. In terms of healthcare, an advance directive may include a living will, health care power of attorney (also called medical power of attorney), and/or a do-not-resuscitate order and instructs medical professionals and others about a patient’s treatment preferences. In some states, these documents are separate, while other states combine two or more.]

Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in a Jan. 25, 2018 article, “Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Information,” available at, stated:

“[A] do-not-resuscitate order directs emergency medical technicians, first responders and emergency health care facilities personnel not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the person for whom the order is issued if that person suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. The purpose of a do-not-resuscitate order is to ensure that medical care provided in the emergency department and out-of-hospital settings is consistent with the patient’s desire and the attending physician’s authorization.”

Jan. 25, 2018 - Wisconsin Department of Health Services

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wrote in its “Religion and Ethics – Ethical Issues” section on Do-Not-Resuscitate orders, which was last updated on July 20, 2006:

“DNRs are Do Not Resuscitate orders. A DNR order on a patient’s file means that a doctor is not required to resuscitate a patient if their heart stops and is designed to prevent unnecessary suffering.

The usual circumstances in which it is appropriate not to resuscitate are:

  • when it will not restart the heart or breathing
  • when there is no benefit to the patient
  • when the benefits are outweighed by the burdens

Although DNRs can be regarded as a form of passive euthanasia, they are not controversial unless they are abused, since they are intended to prevent patients suffering pointlessly from the bad effects that resuscitation can cause: broken ribs, other fractures, ruptured spleen, brain damage.”

July 20, 2006 - BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

Focus on the Family explained in an Apr. 14, 2005 article by its Senior Policy Analyst in Bioethics, Carrie Gordon Earll, entitled “Making Medical Decisions for a Loved One: A Caregiver’s Guide,” that appears in the “Bioethics/Sanctity of Human Life: Quick Facts” section of its website:

“Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order: a patient or a health care agent may request a DNR order. It prevents cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should the patient stop breathing or suffer a cardiac arrest. Patients who are in compromised conditions may be less likely to recover after CPR. The intense physical nature of CPR can cause broken bones or collapsed lungs, especially among frail or elderly patients. DNR orders can vary in interpretation, so you should define the term with the health care facility before considering one for your loved one.”

Apr. 14, 2005 - Focus on the Family