Since this topic has now come up several times in greater detail than I had anticipated in going into during CPR & Wilderness First Aid classes, I figured that I would pass this information on to you all regarding the American Red Cross’s stance on Do Not Resuscitate orders and what you as a lay-responder should do if you encounter one.

To Summarize:
1) As the Lay Responder (Red Cross CPR/First Aid certified only), one does not have to acknowledge the DNR Order.
2) If you are Wilderness First Aid certified or higher (WFR, FR, EMT, etc.), you are to look at the document and may “accept it’s conditions” to not perform CPR in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest only if the following conditions exist:
a. The document MUST be the ORIGINAL (copies and verbal statements do NOT count in a court of law).
b. The document MUST be SIGNED by the correct people (person’s personal physician; and the patient or power of attorney).
c. The document is only valid for ONE YEAR from the date signed by the physician. After which it is no longer valid.
3) If you are a lay responder (American Red Cross certified only) then take the document and give it to the paramedics upon their arrival.
4) If the patient has a Living Will, it is NOT THE SAME and therefore you are to perform CPR as needed according to your initial assessment.
5) A DNR order can be revoked by the patient (or power of attorney) destroying the document (ripping it in half is sufficient) and cutting of their DNR bracelet (if they have one).
6) A TATOO which says “Do Not Resuscitate” is NOT A LEGAL DNR and must be ignored.

This information is specific for Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. If you live in another state, check their laws regarding DNR orders (it’s fairly easy to find on Google). I hope that answers any questions that you may have had regarding Do Not Resuscitate orders! If you’ve got more questions, please feel free to call us at (703) 444-9468.