Q: I have had a number of health problems in recent years and I have been in and out of hospital. I've asked my doctor to attach a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation form to my records as I would not want to be brought back should I have a cardiac arrest. My family are against the idea, as they think I am giving up. If I were to become too ill to know what was going on could they overrule my decision?
I am sorry to hear that you have been unwell. You have a right to request that doctors do not resuscitate you and, assuming you were deemed capable of making such a decision at the time, it will be down to you rather than your family. Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders apply only to the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event of a cardiac arrest – they do not apply to other active treatments such as drips, antibiotics, surgery, etc – and they should be subject to regular review as your condition and outlook may change.
There are no hard and fast rules as to when a DNAR order should be applied. Each decision should be made on the basis of a proper assessment of a patient’s circumstances. Have you thought about writing down your wishes in a legally binding Advance Decision (a living will)? It might help your family understand your request, and it would be good – although not essential from a legal perspective – to have them onside. More information at ageuk.org.uk.
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