A DNR is not the same as a living will.
Accidents and sudden illness are frightening.
They can leave people feeling helpless.
Without proper incapacity planning, they really might be powerless.
According to a recent Florida Today article titled “One Senior Place: Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’,” it is important to have the right documents in place.
Two documents commonly confused with one another are a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) and a living will.
Although they are similar in how they both provide instructions for end of life concerns, they are not interchangeable.
With a living will a person can outline in writing the types of life-sustaining treatments they would like to receive if succumbing to a terminal illness or in a persistent vegetative state.
Examples of what a person may ask to receive or decline to receive include the use of a feeding tube and artificial respiration.
A living will is helpful in providing clear direction to physicians and loved ones tasked with making decisions regarding your care in prolonged states of incapacity.
To ensure the instructions provided are heeded, one should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a valid and updated living will.
Unlike a living will, a DNR is specific to instances of respiratory or cardiac arrest.
A DNR provides instructions NOT to resuscitate the patient in these events.
To be valid, the document must be signed by both the patient and treating physician.
Generally, it is printed in bright colored paper to make emergency identification easier.
A DNR should also be stored in an easily accessible and visible location.
For example, common locations include on the refrigerator at home or at the foot of the bed in a nursing home.
If the document cannot be found, the wishes to not be resuscitated may not be honored.
A common mistake for DNR storage is to entrust the order to a loved one rather than keeping it near the patient.
Without the document readily accessible, the emergency responders are obligated by law to provide CPR or other medical care for reviving the patient.
If the DNR is produced for the emergency responders or readily visible and available, no CPR will be initiated.
However, pain management or oxygen administration may be provided.
When a person is admitted to the hospital, the living will can be placed in the patient chart.
State laws may determine how many physicians must agree to the persistent vegetative state of the patient before the living will terms may be implemented.
After working with an experienced estate planning to create the desired incapacity documents, you should explain your wishes and share the document location with your loved ones.
Reference: Florida Today (July 19, 2022) “One Senior Place: Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’”