Less than 50% of physicians know the resuscitation wishes of their patients and only a small fraction of patients have completed "do not resuscitate" (DNR) orders before death. One of the common reasons given by physicians is that the process of "getting a DNR" takes too long, and some authorities have suggested that additional reimbursement is needed. The purpose of this study is to assess how long the DNR education and consent process actually takes in practice. Our study group was a convenience sample of consecutive patients seen by experienced oncologists in a community and academic practice setting. Physicians were asked to record the time spent in DNR discussions with patients, the outcomes, and their comments, DNR orders were obtained on 16 of 22 patients with a single interview lasting a mean time of 16 minutes. Additional DNR orders were obtained on two more patients after a second interview of 6 patients, mean time 17.5 minutes. After a third interview of 4 patients, mean time 23 minutes, only 2 of 22 patients would not allow DNR orders. Of these two, one died intubated in the intensive care unit and the other underwent continued unsuccessful induction therapy for acute leukemia before dying. Conclusion: DNR orders can be obtained on nearly all patients within the time frame of an inpatient or outpatient visit. Time is not the main obstacle to DNR discussions, and additional reimbursement for additional time is not necessary. A small subset of patients continue to refuse DNR orders. Physician and patient reluctance to broach the subject may be a bigger impediment than time.
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