In 1983, The Genesee Hospital, Rochester, NY, enacted a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) policy that was revised in 1988 because of complex state legislation. Using a retrospective chart review, we studied DNR ordering for all patients older than 79 years who died in the hospital during the 6 months before the policy and compared it with two 6-month intervals after the policy and three 6-month intervals after the law. The hospital policy was associated with an increase in explicit ordering of DNR from 21% in 1982 to 76% for the 2 years thereafter. A further nonsignificant increase to 84% was seen in the 3 years after the law. When cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was ordered, it was performed in 29% before the policy, 56% in the 2 years after, and 92% for the 3 years after the law. We reviewed all CPR attempts for 1988 and found that the overall survival rate for patients older than 79 years was 39% and probably was the result of careful patient selection. Our hospital policy was not adversely affected and may even have been enhanced by the New York State legislation. Despite this progress, we found that less than 25% of decisions about CPR or DNR were the result of informed decision making by patients themselves.
(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:569-572)
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