Ethics. Research. Community.

DNR or CPR--the choice is ours.

Critical care medicine. 
[Record Source: PubMed]
OBJECTIVE: To assess changes in the terminal care of critically ill patients before and after the institution of do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order policies, and policies on the care of the hopelessly ill. DESIGN: Retrospective chart review that comprises the following groups: 82 consecutive deaths from 1981 to 1982, representing our older practice pattern of frequent utilization of terminal resuscitative efforts (group A); 37 consecutive deaths between June and December 1987, the 6-month period immediately preceding the adoption of the DNR policy (group B); and 61 consecutive deaths in calendar year 1988 after the DNR policy went into effect (group C). SETTING: Surgical ICU of a large tertiary care center. PATIENTS: Consecutive patients who died during the study periods before and after the implementation of a DNR policy. INTERVENTIONS: The implementation of hospital-wide policies on DNR orders and care of the hopelessly ill patient. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: There were no significant differences between the three groups for age, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores, Mortality Risk Ratio scores, or lengths of ICU stay. There was a significant (p less than .0001) decrease in the frequency of terminal resuscitative efforts, as evidenced by a decrease from 52% in group A to 3% in group C. The preterminal identification and acceptance of imminent death increased over the study period with an increase (p less than .0001) in the application of DNR orders from 46% in group A to 98% in group C. The ability to withdraw support increased (p less than .0001) from 23% in group A to 73% in group C. CONCLUSIONS: We believe that our data exemplify how our ICU has been able to identify hopelessly ill patients, and how it has implemented specific levels of care that take into account not only medical prognostication, but also the wishes of the patients and their families, while maintaining an atmosphere of comfort and dignity. We demonstrated an important change in the philosophy of care for hopelessly ill patients, which was associated with the institution of DNR policies.
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