A chart review was performed to determine the resuscitation status of all in-patients in this hospital on a single day. A decision not to resuscitate had been made for 11 (3.7%) of 293 patients. Seven of these patients had a severe stroke, two had dementia and one had a malignancy. We identified a further 22 patients who would be unlikely to benefit from resuscitative efforts but who had not been excluded from resuscitation: four patients with major impairment following a stroke, five patients with severe dementia and 13 patients with incurable malignancy. A policy of routinely discussing and documenting the resuscitation status of patients might reduce the unnecessary performance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.