Are a Living Will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order the Same?

Orange City Iowa Estate Planning

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Is there a difference between a "living will" and a "do not resuscitate" order?

Many people wonder about the difference between a living will and a do not resuscitate order (DNR). Florida Today’s recent article entitled “Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’” explains that, while they both address end-of-life wishes, they’re two distinctly different documents that are usually used in different situations.

A living will is a written statement reflecting your wishes about life sustaining treatments in the event of a terminal illness, end stage condition, or persistent vegetative state. This document serves as a set of instructions for physicians in the event you’re incapable to advising them orally. This document is typically considered one of the essential estate planning documents and is usually prepared by an estate planning or elder law attorney.

A do not resuscitate order (DNR) acts as a medical directive and states the patient doesn’t wish to be resuscitated in the event of respiratory or cardiac arrest.

To be valid, the DNR form must be signed by both the patient and their doctor. It should be kept in a noticeable, easily accessible place, perhaps at the head or foot of a bed or on the refrigerator. The DNR should be readily available in the event of an emergency to make sure that the patient’s last wishes will be honored.

With a valid do not resuscitate order, emergency medical responders will not start CPR if they find you in cardiopulmonary arrest. However, comfort care measures, such as oxygen administration, hemorrhage control and pain management will still be used.

Sometimes referred to as the “pre-hospital” DNR, the do not resuscitate order also remains in effect in the emergency room. However, after being admitted to the hospital, the patient’s living will is placed on the chart.

When two doctors concur that the patient is in a persistent vegetative state, has an end stage condition, or a terminal illness and is unable to communicate, the terms of the living will be followed according to the patient’s stated wishes.

Although the living will and DNR documents are different, they’re both are important.

Make certain your emergency contacts are familiar with your wishes and the location of these documents, in case there’s an emergency.

While no one can predict when a health crisis will happen, you can place yourself squarely in charge of your final moments by planning for these future events now.

Contact an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney to get these critical documents.

Reference: Florida Today (July 19, 2022) “Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Estate Planning, Living Will, Advance Directive

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