Living Wills and A Do Not Resuscitate Orders are often confused because both documents address an individual’s greatest fear: death. However, the two documents address vastly different scenarios. So, what is the difference?
A Living Will (also known as an Advanced Health Care Directive) is a document that allows an individual to communicate his or her pre-determined wishes regarding the termination of life-sustaining treatment to physicians and family members. Examples of life-sustaining treatment include: blood transfusions, ventilators, tube-feeding, etc. In laymen’s terms, a Living Will instructs physicians and/or family members as to when they should pull the plug. The pre-prepared document serves to alleviate the burden on an individual’s family members during an already troubling time. Given the delicate nature of the document’s contents, Living Wills should be prepared with the help of an estate planning professional, in order to better understand the consequences of having such a document.
Do Not Resuscitate Order
A Do Not Resuscitate Order (also known as DNR) is a distinct and separate document. A DNR instructs medical professionals not to revive an individual who has suffered cardiac or respiratory arrest. Presentation of an original DNR to first responders prevents them from attempting to resuscitate the patient by CPR, defibrillation, endotracheal intubation, etc. In the State of Florida, an original DNR must be printed on yellow paper and must be signed both by the individual refusing revival and the individual’s physician. DNR forms can be accessed online at the State of Florida’s Department of Health website.
The Main Difference
Although Living Wills and DNRs are often mistaken for each other, the two documents are different. A Living Will takes effect while the individual is still alive but is no longer able to communicate his or her wishes. The individual may be in a vegetative state or be alive only by artificial means. A DNR, on the other hand, takes effect upon the individual’s cardiac or respiratory arrest. The order prohibits medical professionals from reviving the patient who is already dead.
Advantage of Preparing a Living Will
DNRs are typically recommended only for those individuals who are extremely elderly, frail, or suffering from an acute long-term illness. However, any individual, regardless of his or her age, can benefit from preparing a Living Will in advance. In an already troubling time, a Living Will can alleviate the burden of decision-making on family members. These family members may find some comfort in knowing that the individual’s wishes were carried out until his or her dying breath. While it is uncomfortable to think about these decisions, a signed Living Will may save your family from additional pain and grief.