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Introduction to Death and Dying

By

Elizabeth L. Cobbs

, MD, George Washington University;


Karen Blackstone

, MD, George Washington University;


Joanne Lynn

, MD, MA, MS, Altarum Institute

Last full review/revision Oct 2021| Content last modified Nov 2021
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION

Death is an intrinsic part of life, and talking about the likely outcomes of illness, including death and dying, is an important part of health care. Doctors and patients vary in the language they use and in their comfort level regarding such discussions.

People also vary in their comfort level regarding the amount of information and involvement in decision making that they want. Seriously ill people and their loved ones should generally try to understand the likely future course of their illness as well as the options for living with their particular disabilities and family situation.

People should make any preferences about treatment and family support known. Such preferences are known as advance directives Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more . People who do not talk with their families and health care providers about their preferences for care near the end of their life may receive treatments (such as chemotherapy or surgery) or end up living in situations (such as a hospital or nursing home) they would not have wanted.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • Compassion and Choices: Provides end-of-life planning tools and information about end-of-life care advocacy

  • The Conversation Project: Provides tools to prepare for and have conversations about wishes for care through the end of life

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
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Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders
A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order is a document placed in a person’s medical record by a doctor. It informs the medical staff at a hospital that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should not be attempted if a person’s heart and/or breathing stops. CPR is often followed by more drastic measures such as use of electric shocks to the heart or insertion of a breathing tube; a DNR order stops these measures as well. When administered near the end of life, what is the success rate of CPR?
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