Advanced Medical Directive
Alternative namings and abbreviations for this order are used depending on the geographic region. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) is a common abbreviation in the United States and the United Kingdom. It may be clarified in some regions with the addition of DNI (Do Not Intubate), although in some hospitals DNR alone will imply no intubation. Clinically, the vast majority of people requiring resuscitation will require intubation, making a DNI alone problematic.
Some areas of the United States and the United Kingdom include the letter A, as in DNAR, to clarify "Do Not Attempt Resuscitation." This alteration is so that it is not presumed by the patient/family that an attempt at resuscitation will be successful. Since the term DNR implies the omission of action, and therefore "giving up", some have advocated for these orders to be retermed Allow Natural Death. New Zealand and Australia (and some hospitals in the UK) use the term NFR or Not For Resuscitation. Typically, these abbreviations are written without periods between the letters, i.e. AND/DNR not A.N.D./D.N.R..
Until recently in the UK it was common to write "Not for 222" or conversationally, "Not for twos." This was implicitly a hospital DNR order, where 222 (or similar) is the hospital telephone number for the emergency resuscitation or crash team.
DNR compared with advance directive and living will
Advance directives and living wills are documents written by individuals themselves, so as to state their wishes for care, if they are no longer able to speak for themselves.
In contrast, it is a physician or hospital staff member who writes a DNR "physician's order," based upon the wishes previously expressed by the individual in his or her advance directive or living will. Similarly, at a time when the individual is unable to express his wishes, but has previously used an advance directive to appoint an agent, then a physician can write such a DNR "physician's order" at the request of that individual's agent.
These various situations are clearly enumerated in the "sample" DNR order presented on this page.
It should be stressed that, in the United States, an advance directive or living will is not sufficient to ensure a patient is treated under the DNR protocol, even if it is his wish, as neither an advance directive nor a living will is a legally binding document. It is also the case that the wishes expressed in an advance directive or living will are not binding. But also see the legal discussion presented in the next section.