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Potential impact of a verbal prehospital DNR policy.

Grudzen CR, Koenig WJ, Hoffman JR, Boscardin WJ, Lorenz KA, Asch SM. Potential impact of a verbal prehospital DNR policy. Prehospital Emergency Care : Official Journal of The National Association of Ems Physicians and The National Association of State Ems Directors. 2009 Apr 1; 13(2):169-72.

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BACKGROUND: Forgoing resuscitation in prehospital cardiac arrest has previously required a written prehospital do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. Some emergency medical services (EMS) agencies, including Los Angeles County (LAC), have implemented policies allowing surrogate decision makers to verbally request to forgo resuscitation. The impact of a verbal DNR policy is unclear, given the absence of information about how often cardiac arrest occurs at home, or in the presence of a family member. OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of written DNR forms, rate of resuscitation, location of cardiac arrest, and availability of a family member in nontraumatic cardiac arrest prior to implementation of the new policy in LAC. METHODS: All prehospital run sheets for nontraumatic cardiac arrest in LAC were reviewed for the first seven days of each month (August 2006-January 2007) for DNR status, location of cardiac arrest, presence of family members, and whether resuscitation was attempted. RESULTS: Of the 897 cardiac arrests, 492 occurred at home, 111 in a public place, and 93 in a nursing home (location was unknown for 201). Fifty-five patients (6%) had a written DNR order, although it was not always available. Of these 55 patients, ten were resuscitated, the majority of the time because the family could not produce the paperwork. A family member was listed as present 29% of the time (261 of 897 cases). A medical history was obtained in an additional 465 cases (52%), indicating that someone familiar with the patient''s medical history was present more than half the time, even when a family member was not mentioned. CONCLUSIONS: A written DNR order is uncommonly used in the prehospital setting as a reason to forgo resuscitation in LAC. Even when family members state that the patient has a DNR order, patients are often resuscitated. A majority of cardiac arrests occurs at the patient''s home, and in many cases in the presence of family members, some of whom may be able to express a patient''s preferences regarding end-of-life care.

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