Healthcare workers of all kinds — physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers and case managers — inadvertently terrify patients and their families with medical terminology perceived as harsh, insensitive, and downright confusing.
A prime example is the "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order. When healthcare professionals speak to patients and family members about DNRs, all too often the family believes that both care and all treatment will be abandoned. Regardless of the careful explanation of DNR orders, often all the family hears is the "not" in "do not resuscitate." This negativism confuses many people, who think that approving a DNR order gives permission to terminate their loved one's life. Or they may be reluctant to agree to the order because they feel guilty that they are not helping their loved one as they feel they should.
Most in the medical field know that care continues with a DNR. However, it means a change in the goal of treatment. But to patients and family members who are emotionally — not clinically — involved in the situation, this truth may not be apparent.
Perhaps the time has come to change from DNR to the gentler, more definitive, term "Allow Natural Death" (AND).
An order to AND is meant to ensure that only comfort measures are provided. By using AND, physicians and other medical professionals would be acknowledging that the person is dying and that everything that is being done for the patient — including the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration — will allow the dying process to occur as comfortably as possible.
Adapted from Hospice Patients Alliance. New designation for allowing a natural death. Internet. Accessed on May 16, 2016.