Choosing the three words “Allow Natural Death” over “Do Not Resuscitate”, the other three words used when making the decision to provide no resuscitation to keep someone alive, can make such a profound difference in the lives and hearts of grieving families. There is a movement rising in health care systems throughout the country to institute this new terminology.
These medical orders to “Do Not Resuscitate” written as a prescription by a physician in a patient’s chart, are usually given at a time when the patient has no chance of survival with medical means or following an ‘advance directive’ that the patient wrote him/herself.
One of the more difficult duties I had as a nurse working in a hospital was talking to families about the decision to “DNR”, or “Do Not Resuscitate”, their sick and dying loved one.
I always thought the expression “Do Not Resuscitate” sounded cold and commanding. In discussions with the families it was evident to me that they took this to mean “do not keep my loved one alive”, and of course they wanted to keep their loved one alive!
“Do Not Resuscitate” sounds withholding and like a ‘take-away’.
I’m so glad to hear that “Allow Natural Death” will take its place.
“Allowing” is not a command, it sounds like an appreciation of an organic inevitable process. Let me rant for a bit here……….
So my experiences of the DNR’s in the hospital the families had to make the gut-wrenching decision, they then had to put their signature on paper stating that command – which carries some emotional weight in and of itself. And to top it off, when the decision was made and the papers signed, then it was advertised! The letters “DNR” were posted all over the the the patient’s the doors going into the sometimes even written on the patients clothing or skin!
This is one of the many things that makes me shudder when I think about the loss of dignity people experience in the hospital, especially in end-of-life (thank goodness for hospice where dignity is maintained). It is also one of the many reasons why I was so insistent that my parents die at home (which they wanted for themselves) if the conditions were right in that there was no need for ventilator or other equipment.
Five years ago this week my mother, who was hospitalized at was University of Penn for her kidney cancer, was told by her physicians she had very little time left to live. The topic of “Do Not Resuscitate” didn’t even come up. Without a second thought we called Samaritan Hospice in Marlton New Jersey and brought her home to “Allow a Natural Death” in the comfort of her home surrounded by her loved ones.
We believed this helped to create conditions to allow a natural death…comfortably and peacefully. And she did have one weeks later. The beautiful thing was that as a family we always used natural healing methods in our home, and just as we used them for living a good life, we also used them for dying a good death (for both of my parents).
Seven years ago after my father died a peaceful death at home, I took this concept and I created “Peaceful Passages: Complementary Therapies in End of Life Care” to create awareness of our ability to use wonderful holistic modalities for comfort and care, involvement of family members, and to facilitate a natural and peaceful death.
I also started a scholarship fund to help pay for education for people who want to study holistic modalities like energy healing, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology if they are going to use it in end of life settings or situations. I would like to share this aspect of my work with you.
If you haven’t seen my website yet, please visit it! Go to: – (and download the free report on “17 Natural Ways to Comfort Your Loved One Who is Sick or Dying”.