Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders and living wills are not the same.
The COVID-19 pandemic means more people are thinking about end-of-life issues.
Some people who are exposed to the virus are barely affected.
For others, it becomes an issue of life or death.
According to a recent Lehigh Valley Live article titled “What’s the difference between a DNR and a living will for coronavirus patients if they need a ventilator?,” people need to have the right incapacity planning in place.
Understanding the difference between a living will and a DNR is a good place to start.
How are these different?
A DNR is not written by the patient.
Although a patient may request a DNR, a physician must write the DNR and place it in the medical file of the patient.
The DNR directs medical staff not to provide CPR to a patient if he or she suffers a cardiac event or stops breathing.
Typically, a DNR means resuscitation would be either harmful or futile to the patient.
A DNR only addresses CPR.
What about ventilators?
They are commonly used in COVID-19 treatment.
The DNR would not negate the use of a ventilator for treatment of the illness.
A living will is created by the patient as part of his or her estate planning.
Typically, a living will, which in our legal practice is called a health care treatment directive, is part of an advance health care directive.
The other part of our advance health care directive is the durable power of attorney for health care decisions.
Its purpose is to designate a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
It also gives permission for the doctor to share medical records with the agent.
The living will allows an individual to provide instructions regarding medical care under specific conditions.
The conditions often include terminal illness, irreversible brain damage, or permanent unconsciousness.
Although these documents may not directly impact the use of a ventilator in the treatment of COVID-19, you need to have your medical directives in place in case of an emergency.
When you are incapacitated, it is too late to provide instructions regarding your wishes.
Reference: Lehigh Valley Live (April 8, 2020) “What’s the difference between a DNR and a living will for coronavirus patients if they need a ventilator?”