DNR stands for “do not resuscitate,” which refers to the act of performing CPR on a patient. Although this seems to be clear, it is often misunderstood and poorly complied with by many doctors and hospitals around the world. So, how exactly is it misunderstood, and how can doctors better comply with this order?
In Memorial Hospital, DNR was misconceived by the doctors on the staff. When Hurricane Katrina struck in New Orleans, the hospital lost power, causing an immediate evacuation of the patients in this unexpected moment of terror. Throughout this experience, the doctors used triage, a system in which doctors decide the order of treatment for a large number of patients based on the urgency of their illness. However, when the doctors grouped the patients into three distinct groups according to their urgency, they placed those with DNR orders with the patients who were the sickest. Personally, I disagree with this action because I do not believe DNR should play a role in this decision. DNR does not have anything to do with the condition of the patient, which is solely what the grouping should be based upon. However, the hospital’s medical department chairman had other ideas: “He said that patients with D.N.R. orders had terminal or irreversible conditions, and at Memorial he believed they should go last because they would have had the ‘least to lose’ compared with other patients if calamity struck” (Fink). Thus, the doctors treated those with DNR orders as if they did not have the same level of desire to live as those who do not have DNR orders. Having a DNR does not necessarily mean that one does not want to live and has provided his or her consent to be euthanized. Rather, it means they do not wish to go on life support or experience a painful recovery. I believe doctors can better comply with DNR orders by completely disregarding it when it comes to triage systems. The fact that one’s medical records has these three letters on it should not imply anything whatsoever. Research has shown that the quality of care for those who have DNR orders significantly decreases, which is wrong, in my opinion. If doctors receive more training and gain more skills in understanding the true meaning of DNR, I believe they will be better equipped to handle triage situations similar to this in the future.