What Does DNR Stand for in Medical Terms?

In the medical field, the abbreviation "DNR" stands for "Do not resuscitate." Often instituted when a patient is at or near the end of his or her life, this order is one type of advanced directive. It instructs medical personnel to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event that the patient stops breathing or his or her heart stop beating.

A DNR order can only be issued by a licensed physician and is specific to the act of CPR alone. Other end-of-life procedures and life-saving interventions such as pain medication, supplemental nutrition (feeding tubes) and other medications are covered under other advanced directives.

Either the patient him or herself, their designated healthcare proxy or Durable Power of Attorney (DPA), or a family members can request a DNR order. The healthcare proxy, DPA and family are only able to make the decision to institute a DNR order, however, if the patient is not able to make his or her own healthcare decisions, such as when in a coma.

Once instructed to do so by the proper authority (the patient or proxy), physicians place DNR orders inside the patient's medical chart. DNR orders can be cancelled at any time. In addition, if a patient is moved from one facility to another, there is no need to get a new DNR order and DNR orders are legal and honored in all 50 US states.