DNR Meaning: What Is a DNR Order?

When we talk about health and medical care, some terms represent critical choices and deep personal values. “DNR” is an abbreviation that comes up in conversations about life, well-being, and respect for wishes. It’s a topic that touches on both the science of medicine and the heart of human dignity. Let’s look at the significance of this term and the important discussions it brings to light.

Key Takeaways

  • A DNR order is a directive against performing CPR in life-threatening situations.
  • Clarifying DNRs helps honor patient choices during emergency medical care.
  • Understanding DNR nuances aids in making informed healthcare decisions.

DNR Meaning

DNR Meaning: What Is a DNR Order?

What Does “DNR” Stand For?

DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. It is a directive used in healthcare settings indicating that a patient should not undergo CPR or advanced cardiac life support if their heart stops beating or they stop breathing. This directive is particularly relevant for patients with serious illnesses or those near the end of life who may not benefit from aggressive resuscitation measures.

Origin of DNR

The concept of “Do Not Resuscitate” emerged in medical practice as a response to the complexities of life-saving interventions, particularly for patients with little chance of recovery or those seeking to avoid unnecessary suffering. It represents a shift towards patient autonomy and informed consent in medical decision-making, allowing patients to express their wishes regarding end-of-life care.

Other Meanings of DNR

While “DNR” usually refers to medical directives, the acronym has other meanings in different contexts. For example, in the environmental sector, DNR can stand for Department of Natural Resources, which is a designation for government agencies responsible for maintaining natural resources. However, within the scope of our discussion, we focus on its medical implication.

Commonly Confused Terms with DNR


Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders prevent medical personnel from conducting CPR or advanced cardiac life support if a patient’s heart stops or they stop breathing. Do Not Intubate (DNI), on the other hand, specifically requests that intubation and mechanical ventilation not be used to support breathing. Essentially:


DNAR (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) is often considered synonymous with DNR. Both documents prevent medical professionals from initiating resuscitation. However, the term DNAR is sometimes preferred to clarify that resuscitation attempts will not be started in the first place. Key point:

  • DNR & DNAR: Both prevent the start of resuscitation efforts upon cessation of heart or breath


The Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form is more comprehensive than just a DNR order. It outlines various interventions that a patient would or would not like to receive, such as antibiotics or feeding tubes, beyond the scope of CPR. In contrast:

  • DNR: Specifically declines CPR only
  • POLST: Covers a broader range of life-sustaining treatments

DNR Examples

In Conversations

Healthcare Setting:

  • Person 1: “I had a meeting with the physician about Grandpa’s living will today.”
  • Person 2: “Oh, how did that go?”
  • Person 1: “Well, the doctor went over his DNR order with me. It means that if Grandpa’s heart stops, they won’t perform CPR.”
  • Person 2: “That must have been a tough conversation, but I’m glad we have clarity on his wishes.”

Family Discussions:

  • Person 1: “I’ve been thinking a lot about Aunt Julia’s situation and her DNR.”
  • Person 2: “Me too. It’s a difficult thing to consider.”
  • Person 1: “Yes, but we need to honor her wishes. She’s been very clear about not wanting any aggressive measures when her time comes.”
  • Person 2: “I agree. It’s important to respect what she wants, even though it’s hard for us to let go.”

In Texting and Social Posts

  • Text Message: “Just talked to the doc. Mom’s DNR is on file. She wants to be comfortable.”
  • Social Media: “After much thought, I’ve chosen to have a DNR. I believe in quality of life rather than extended suffering.”

Other Examples

  • Legal Documents: When creating an advance directive, individuals often specify their resuscitation preferences in a DNR order.
  • In Hospitals: We often see DNR orders placed on charts or in patient records, indicating their wishes to medical staff.

Usage of DNR in Different Contexts

In Hospitals: Medical professionals adhere to a patient’s DNR when providing care. In this environment, a DNR indicates that if the patient’s heart stops or they cease to breathe, the medical team should not attempt CPR or advanced cardiac life support.

At Home or in Hospices: Patients with terminal illnesses or in palliative care settings may choose to have a DNR order to avoid aggressive treatments in a more peaceful and familiar environment. Here, emergency responders called to the home would respect the patient’s wishes as outlined in their DNR order.

For Chronic Health Conditions: Individuals with serious, ongoing health issues sometimes opt for a DNR. They’ve often had discussions with their primary care providers to ensure that their treatment aligns with their overall health goals and quality of life considerations.

  • DNR vs. DNI: It’s essential to distinguish between DNR and Do Not Intubate (DNI) orders. While both are advanced directives, a DNR strictly refers to no CPR, while a DNI means no mechanical ventilation.

Here’s a simplified breakdown:

Setting Impact of DNR
Hospital No initiation of CPR by hospital staff.
Home/Hospice Emergency services will not perform CPR.
Chronic Illness Aligns ongoing treatment with patient’s health priorities.

More about DNR Terminology

Related Terms to DNR

  • Advanced Directive: A legal document where individuals specify their wishes for medical care, should they become unable to communicate their decisions.
  • Living Will: Similar to an advanced directive, it delineates a person’s preferences for end-of-life medical treatment.

Synonyms to DNR

  • No Code: Used informally by medical personnel to indicate that no attempts should be made to resuscitate a patient.
  • AND (Allow Natural Death): Emphasizes comfort care and letting nature take its course without aggressive resuscitation efforts.

Antonyms to DNR

  • Full Code: Indicates that if a patient’s heart or breathing stops, all resuscitation efforts should be attempted.
  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): A life-saving technique that is considered the opposite of DNR, as it involves efforts to revive an individual.