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KortneyPA-C
KortneyPA-C, Physician Assistant
Category: Health
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Experience:  8+ yrs, Orthopedics, Worker's Comp, general practice
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If a patient completed a DNR (do not resuscitate) request,

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If a patient completed a DNR (do not resuscitate) request, would following it cause a health professional to violate their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm? That is, would such inaction to save a patient's life cause harm to that patient if the patient dies?

Hello, welcome to JustAnswer! My goal is to provide you with the most comprehensive answer, so if you need more info, please ask!

Based on the information that you provided for me, it appears that you would like additional information and clarification regarding the Hippocratic Oath and DNR orders.

In order to answer this question, let me provide you with some general information about both of these so that you understand the complexity of the issue.

The Hippocratic Oath is an oath that physicians and healthcare professionals swear to and it discusses the practice of medicine ethically. The oath is usually administered by most medical schools in the US, typically done in a ceremony before graduation.

A DNR order or a Do Not Rescusitate order is a legal document that details a person's preference to not receive life support measures if they stop breathing or if their heart stops beating. This is a document that a patient can choose to write so that the healthcare professionals that are taking care of them respect their wishes.

So, based on your question,

"If a patient completed a DNR (do not resuscitate) request, would following it cause a health professional to violate their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm? That is, would such inaction to save a patient's life cause harm to that patient if the patient dies?"

No, following a DNR order does not violate the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and would not be characterized as "inaction" on the part of the healthcare professional. Per the Hippocratic Oath: "Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God."

Basically, this means that it is not the health professional's job to decide when life saving measures are or are not necessary, it is the patient's, AND it is the healthcare professional's job to abide by what the patient's wishes are. This is exactly the reason that DNR orders exist, without them, a healthcare professional must provide life saving measures, regardless of the situation at hand.

In fact, following a DNR order takes more ACTION, than inaction, technically. A person who writes a DNR order has already contemplated their options, made the decision to not accept life saving measures and, likely, advised family members of their decisions. The DNR order is then relayed to the patient's physicians, so that it can be visible in the patient's charts, medical records, etc. When a patient presents to the hospital or emergency room, the DNR order is usually already in their medical records or if it is not, sometimes a family member who knows the patient's wishes can provide this information as long as the legal document is in place, or there is power of attorney present for the patient. It takes more action for a healthcare professional, whether it be a doctor or EMT, to acknowledge that a DNR order exists, and to abide by the wishes of the patient per the DNR. If a DNR did not exist, life saving measures would be provided for the patient as usual in a life threatening situation. However, if there is a DNR, a physician would have to physically NOT provide medical treatment and resist the natural tendency to provide life saving measures.

Does this make sense? Did I answer your question? Is there anything that is still unclear to you?

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