Today’s correspondent asks:

How do you go about getting a DNR order from a doctor ?… appears to still be a very grey area.  I am not sick, nor do i have any impending health issues.

My simple answer to ‘how do I …?’ is ‘you complete the prescribed form and pay the prescribed fee (if there is one)’.   In many states there is a form and procedure set out in the legislation – for example the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) sets out details of who can give an advanced care directive and in what form and how it is to be interpreted.

However as I’ve said before, the common law allows anyone to refuse treatment and that need only be communicated in any way that is effective (see for example Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) s 10 ‘Other rights to refuse medical treatment not affected’).

Treating doctors can also make a DNR order when in their opinion (made in accordance with appropriate medical practice which requires taking into account the patient’s wishes and consulting with other professionals, not just on a whim) that further resuscitation would not advance the patient’s interests (see Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] AC 789; see also for example Consent To Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 (SA) s 4B ‘Consent not required for withdrawal etc of medical treatment’).   A doctor is only obligated to provide treatment that is in the patient’s best interest and warranted by their condition.  The fact that a person wants an antibiotic for a viral infection not only does not compel a doctor to prescribe the antibiotic, he or she should not make the prescription as it is not warranted.  Equally if resuscitation (whatever that means in the context) is not warranted by the patient’s condition because it will be futile or over-burdensome, then the treating medical team can refuse to provide that treatment.

The first step to ‘getting a DNR order from a doctor’ is to talk to the doctor.