Hospitals Consider Universal Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders for COVID-19 Patients

Mar 27, 2020 7:05 PM ET

As hospitals become more and more overcrowded due to an influx of coronavirus patients, healthcare workers worry they are going to have to make some drastic moves to ensure they are protected and are able to also meet the medical demands of those that continue to arrive. One of the decisions that is being considered is whether hospitals should enact universal “do-not-resuscitate” orders for coronavirus patients, reports The Washington Post.

One of the hospitals that is considering modifying their current policy, despite it “going against the wishes of a patient and their family,” is Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Richard Wunderink, who is one of Northwestern’s intensive-care medical directors, told the news source that the hospital “is exploring whether state law would allow it to implement the policy, which would limit possible exposure to health care workers and maximize resources.”

The source highlighted that discussions of implementing such a policy began after hospitals were faced with a “surge in cases coupled with a shortage of life-saving ventilators and protective gear for staffers.” Although the idea of a universal do-not-resuscitate order is being passed around, many hospitals say they are going to continue resuscitating COVID-19 patients following modified procedures, such as “putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier.”


What exactly is a do-not-resuscitate order?

A do-not-resuscitate order, or DNR, is a medical order that is written up by a doctor that “instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient’s breathing stops or if the patient’s heart stops beating.” These orders are created prior to an emergency and they allow you to “choose whether or not you want CPR in an emergency.” To clarify further, CPR may involve one or more of the following:

Mouth-to-mouth breathing following by chest compressions.
Electric shock to restart the heart.
Breathing tubes to open the airway.
Administering certain types of medicines.


When a person does not obtain a DNR order, they are expected to receive CPR, however, when a DNR is created, it means the individual named in it does not wish to receive CPR in the event of an emergency. As hospitals consider enacting a universal DNR order, it could result in those without one not receiving life-saving treatment.

Despite what is decided upon, it is important that you have an advance directive in place, which is a legal document that “protects your right to refuse medical treatment you do not want, or to request treatment you do want, in the event you lose the ability to make decisions yourself.” To learn more about advance directives and what documents you need to have in place so that you are protected in the event you cannot make medical decisions, contact Baby Boomers’ Barrister at 727-565-4250 to speak with a St. Petersburg, FL estate planning attorney.


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