To resuscitate or not'¦what's an overwrought owner/vet to do? (DNR for pets)

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: October 13, 2010
Published: June 13, 2008
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I truly enjoy getting the opportunity to see how other veterinary hospitals do their thing—mostly.

Last Tuesday’s visit to my area neurology/oncology/radiology team (again, reference my Sophie’s illness) was impressive for a whole bunch of reasons. Among them, one thing really stood out for me: the DNR form at the very bottom of the release I signed before she could get her MRI.

In case you’ve never had to contend with the concept of DNR (which stands for “do not resuscitate”), let me just inform you that it’s not a pleasant experience—especially if you’re not expecting the questions such a release poses.

There I was, standing in the little alcove this large specialty hospital provides for estimate payments and signatures and such, when  see those three little checkboxes hiding discretely at the end of the form beneath the unexpected query (and I paraphrase):

If your pet should suffer a cardiac or respiratory arrest during his or her stay here, how would you prefer we care for him/her?

Since I was pretending to be quick and efficient and in control I checked the first box quickly:

Please make all efforts to resuscitate my pet.

That’s when I noticed the next two lines:

Please do not make any attempts to resuscitate my pet.

Please euthanize my pet in the event of an arrest.

Oh, God. What box should I check? I stood there stupidly for what seemed like an eternity (but which probably lasted only a couple of seconds) deliberating with myself. I apologized to the receptionist as I did so, explaining that I’d really not had a chance to think about this.

Had this been my young and healthy Frenchie in the case of an anesthetic reaction or trauma I’d absolutely check the first box. If Sophie had a similar experience I’d want that box checked, too. But in this case?

So you know, Sophie’s not doing so well. I’ve had an especially scary and frustrating week trying to make sense of her now obviously neurological condition. Last Friday she nearly checked out on me—overnight. That’s why it was especially gut-wrenching for me to determine the exact right box for Sophie’s current condition.

In the end I checked the third box and hoped I’d done the right thing. I mean, I can’t afford high end CPR anyway, right?