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What You Need to Know About a DNR

If you are considering a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR), you need to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. While a DNR is a medical form that you complete but that your physician must sign, it’s important to be aware of the legal implications. You owe it to yourself and your family to understand how a DNR may affect your future.

What Is a DNR?

A do-not-resuscitate order is a specific type of medical order that is signed by a doctor. A DNR tells health care providers not to revive you if you experience certain conditions. Specifically, the order instructs providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if either your heart stops or you stop breathing. These health care providers may include doctors, emergency medical personnel, and emergency room staff. A DNR does not include any instructions about pain management.

During CPR, medical techniques are used to perform resuscitation. These may include mouth-to-mouth breathing or, in some cases, breathing tubes. Medication and electric shock using an automated external defibrillator (AED) machine may be used as well.

When Is a DNR Used?

Typically, a DNR is used in specific cases, such as when a person has a terminal illness that is in advanced stages. In such a situation, a DNR works in complement with a living will. You may want a DNR for a variety of reasons. The intent is usually to have a DNR in place prior to an unexpected emergency.

Generally, there are considerations of what a person’s quality of life would be like after resuscitation. You may worry that you’ll be dependent on medical devices indefinitely for life support. You may also be concerned that CPR may involve a significant amount of pain. While this may be the case in some instances, it’s critical to discuss this with your physician. They will be able to help you decide if a DNR is right for you. Your doctor will also help you understand the implications of how this will affect situations you may encounter. A DNR is not usually used by someone who is in good health.

Who Can Override a DNR?

Once you have a DNR in place, you are the only person who can override the order. This means that you need to be able to communicate your wishes about receiving CPR. If you have a DNR in place and you change your mind about it, you need to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

In the event that you are unconscious or unable to speak, no one else can override a DNR for you. This is true even if you had previously changed your mind about the DNR and told someone else about this decision. They still would not be able to override the order, no matter who the person is. This includes your spouse, children, and other family members.

What Alternatives to a DNR Should I Consider?

Sometimes a person may have an incomplete understanding of what a DNR is or how it works. A DNR is also often confused with other end-of-life documents. While these legal instruments are similar in some facets, they differ in key ways. It’s important to understand these differences because they are legally binding documents. If you are considering creating a DNR, you may benefit from considering these options as well:

  • Living Will– This is also called an advanced health care directive and is used to specify instructions for end-of-life medical care. These instructions may impact your future degree of personal independence and self-sufficiency. A living will might include directives regarding pain management, dialysis, use of a ventilator, intubation, and organ donation.
  • Medical Power of Attorney– This is also called a health care proxy. A medical power of attorney allows you to authorize a specific person to make all major healthcare choices for you. These choices include decisions regarding end-of-life care. They also include things like surgery and day-to-day healthcare choices. The authority of a medical power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf is greater than the authority of other people, such as your spouse or children.

Contact Arenson Law Group, PC Today

Our experienced Cedar Rapids estate planning attorneys are ready to discuss your unique situation with you. This can be a sensitive topic, and there are many complex decisions to make. Call us at (319) 363-8199 to speak with a member of the Arenson Law Group, PC legal team and set up an initial consultation. We can help you navigate the process of planning your estate with compassion and understanding. Let us guide you so you can make the best decision for your family’s future.