The do-not-resuscitate order for terminal cancer patients in mainland China: A retrospective study

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With the development of palliative care, a signed do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order has become increasingly popular worldwide. However, there is no legal guarantee of a signed DNR order for patients with cancer in mainland China. This study aimed to estimate the status of DNR order signing before patient death in the cancer center of a large tertiary affiliated teaching hospital in western China. Patient demographics and disease-related characteristics were also analyzed.

This was a retrospective chart analysis. We screened all charts from a large-scale tertiary teaching hospital in China for patients who died of cancer from January 2010 to February 2015. Analysis included a total of 365 records. The details of DNR order forms, patient demographics, and disease-related characteristics were recorded.

The DNR order signing rate was 80%. Only 2 patients signed the DNR order themselves, while the majority of DNR orders were signed by patients’ surrogates. The median time for signing the DNR order was 1 day before the patients’ death. Most DNR decisions were made within the last 3 days before death. The time at which DNR orders were signed was related to disease severity and the rate of disease progression.

Our findings indicate that signing a DNR order for patients with terminal cancer has become common in mainland China in recent years. Decisions about a DNR order are usually made by patients’ surrogates when patients are severely ill. Palliative care in mainland China still needs to be improved.

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