George Ball (not his real name) is angry.

He's dying soon, he knows that. But what he's really mad about is that he's still alive.

"I signed the paper. I made the request," he said. "So, why am I still alive?"

Ball is in a lot of pain and is suffering from a terminal disease. He also has a bad heart and suffers from excruciating pain in both knees.

The 72-year-old Utahn recently had a heart attack (cardiac arrest), and was essentially dead for a few minutes before being resuscitated at a Utah hospital.

Life-saving measures were taken, including shooting adrenaline into his heart. He was gone, but they brought him back.

Happy ending, right?

The only problem was, Ball had signed and certified a DNR -- a do not resuscitate order -- so that if he, well, died, heroic measures would not be taken to bring him back to life.

Ball had ordered the DNR through his personal care physician and once it was done, he never gave it a second thought.

But somewhere along the line, the DNR never got entered into the system and the emergency professionals working on him during his heart attack never got the message.

They were doing their jobs, trying to save a man's life. It's just that he didn't want to be saved.

Ball says he's not really mad, doesn't plan on filing a lawsuit, and is actually grateful he has a little more time to see his kids and grandkids (his wife has passed away).

But he wonders aloud what the point of a DNR is if it's not heeded when needed.

"I was ready. I am ready. That's why I signed it."

According to Utah law (via, a DNR is a legally-binding, dated order, written and signed by your physician with the patient's name. The doctor can only write a DNR order after consulting with you (the patient), your appointed representative, or a member of your family. The order, once executed, instructs medical providers to refrain from resuscitating the named patient.

"Like an advance directive or a living will, DNRs allow you to express your preferences regarding end-of-life care. Unlike these other forms of healthcare directives, though, DNRs are very straightforward: they tell doctors not to resuscitate the patient. CPR and other forms of resuscitation are automatically performed to save a person's life in the absence of an appropriate DNR order."

There are a few things to consider prior to signing a DNR. Here's a short list.

  1. Do you have any religious, ethical, or moral beliefs opposed to resuscitation? Some religions oppose resuscitation methods while some people are simply opposed to the idea on moral or ethical grounds.
  2. Why do you not want to be resuscitated? Are you seriously ill or have you been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Sometimes a person who is not terminally ill may want a DNR order if their health generally is deteriorating.
  3. Do the side effects worry you? Side effects can be serious even if resuscitation is successful. If chest compressions were used, you could end up with broken ribs, punctured lungs, or a damaged heart. For an older person, these physical injuries are significant.
  4. Do survival rates concern you? People over the age of 70 who are revived through resuscitation often do not have good survival rates. Though statistics vary, for most elderly persons, outcomes can be depressing, and so for some, it feels like they are prolonging the inevitable. It is important to keep in mind, though, each person is different, and you could have a good prognosis even when the statistics indicate otherwise.

One other thing to consider. A poll was conducted a few years ago, asking more than 1,000 doctors nationwide if they would prefer to not be resuscitated if they had that decision to make. Eighty-eight percent said they would choose a DNR.

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