Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders are commonly accepted in most health care settings, but are less widely recognized in the prehospital setting. We describe the implementation of and satisfaction with a prehospital DNR protocol that allows paramedics to honour verbal and non-standard written DNR requests.
This prospective observational study reviewed all cardiac arrests in southeastern Ontario between March 1, 2003 and September 31, 2005. Following a verbal or non-standard written DNR request, paramedics completed a questionnaire and a follow-up structured telephone interview was conducted with surrogate decision makers (SDMs).
There were 1890 cardiac arrests during the study period, of which 86 met our inclusion criteria. Paramedic surveys were available for 82 cases (95%), and surrogate decision makers (SDMs) were successfully contacted in 50 (58%) of them. Two SDMs declined to be interviewed. The mean patient age was 72.7 (standard deviation 13.8) years and 65% were male. Sixty-three (73%) of DNR requests were verbal, and 23 (27%) were written. The mean paramedic comfort was rated 4.9 on a 5-point Likert scale (with 5 being “very comfortable” ) (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.9–5.0). The mean SDM comfort was rated by paramedics as 4.9 (95% CI 4.8 –4.9). SDMs reported comfort in withholding CPR in 47 of 48 cases (98%), and with paramedic care in all cases. One SDM stated that although it was consistent with the patient's wishes, she was uncomfortable having to make the DNR request.
Satisfaction with this novel prehospital DNR protocol was uniformly high among paramedic and SDM respondents. It appears that such a protocol is feasible and acceptable for the prehospital setting. Our conclusions are limited by a small sample size, the lack of a comparison group, and limited follow-up.