"CPR" or "Allow Natural Death" – How the message is presented makes a difference

The words and tone that doctors use, and personal experiences they share affect whether or not people chose CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resusciation) to be performed if/when their loved ones heart stops.

In a recent study “Some of the men and women were asked whether they wanted their family member to receive CPR, which had a 10% chance of saving their loved one’s life, if the heart stopped, or if they wanted to issue a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order. About 60% opted for CPR. However, when the doctors changed the language of the DNR choice to “allow natural death,” only 49% chose CPR.”

DNR “Do not resuscitate” suggests that resuscitation is the outcome. This should be changed to “Do not ATTEMPT resuscitation” and be accompanied by the statistics of how many people with this particular illness at this particular stage in their lives recover following attempting CPR, and what recovery may look like.

“AND” or “Allow Natural Death” – I like this phrase.  It resonates with me.  When using this phrase it is equally important to provide information… What does a natural death look like?  What might it look like for a person with this particular illness at this particular stage in their lives?

We need to do away with the wording: “If your (loved ones) heart stops do you want us to resuscitate him?” or  worse yet, “If your (loved ones) heart stops do you want us to start it again?”

Changing our language, becoming more comfortable with the “D” word, sharing information, we can help individuals to explore the options and choose that which best fits this individual at this time.