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Answers from our Priests for Life Medical Team

Submitted by: F on  5/13/2010
Answered by: Matthew P. Harrison, M.D.
Topic: DNR
My family is pressuring me to get a DNR. What is that and should I have one?
Dear Frank,
DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. This has come to mean many different things to many different people. Generally it means that you are telling health care providers that if you die, you do not want heroic measures to be taken to revive you. This can be very dangerous. It would be like going on a trip and saying that in 410 miles if a car swerves into your lane, you should slam on the brakes. The problem is that it might be better to drive off the road to avoid the car, speed up to get out of the way, or crash into a fence to avoid a worse collision. Most medical decisions, especially those that literally involve life and death should only be made at the time of illness. Too many variables exist to make a medically sound decision years in advance. You also cannot count on a stranger to make the judgment as to what is considered “resuscitation” or what is a “terminal” condition. I have many stories of young and elderly patients who have been resuscitated against the advice of other doctors and have lived productively for many years. The time that a DNR is appropriate is when intervention will do no good and may even harm the patient. But this also takes medical decision making. My advice is to make sure that you have a good pro-life doctor that you trust and discuss you wishes with your family.

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