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Patients’ attitudes towards “do not attempt resuscitation” status


Introduction: The decision of “do not attempt resuscitation” (DNAR) in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest is usually made when the patients are critically ill and cannot make an informed choice. Although, various professional bodies have published guidelines, little is know about the patients’ own views regarding DNAR discussion.

Aim: The aim of this study was to determine patients’ attitudes regarding discussing DNAR before they are critically ill.

Methods: A prospective study was performed in a general out patients department. A questionnaire was distributed to consecutive outpatients along with an explanatory leaflet in the adult outpatient clinic.

Results: 364 patients completed the questionnaire (response rate 77%). 90% of respondents wanted all patients to be asked regarding DNAR decision at some point during a hospital admission. The majority would not find a DNAR discussion distressing. Only 10% would find it upsetting, however, 48% of these still wanted a discussion. 37% of respondents wanted to discuss DNAR decisions on admission; 32% in outpatients; 17% at consent for surgery, 14% when they are critically ill. 87% of respondents would not object to their relatives being involved in making decisions about their resuscitation status. However, only 12% of the subjects in the study had been involved in discussing the resuscitation status of a relative and 21% would not be comfortable to discuss a relative’s resuscitation status. Although 33% of patients preferred their resuscitation status to simply be documented within their clinical notes, 77% wanted it to be more easily accessible.

Conclusions: This study suggests that contrary to current practice most patients want to discuss their DNAR status prior to becoming critically ill. This includes half of the small number that find it distressing to discuss. Although most patients are comfortable with relatives being involved in discussing DNAR, a significant proportion do not want their relatives to be asked. Furthermore, once a decision has been made, the majority of patients want it to be more accessible than current practice allows.

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