The Difference Between an Advance Health Care Directive and a Do Not Resuscitate Order

Apr 27, 2021
Estate Planning Wills / Power of Attorney

Thinking about the end of your life may be stressful, but the more you prepare, the better the situation will be for you and your loved ones. For instance, in the story of Cynthia McKennedy, having an advanced care directive was crucial to ensuring that her physician honored her end-of-life wishes when she was not lucid enough to advocate for herself. Not having one would have put an unbelievable amount of stress on her family during an already-difficult time.

A majority of people do not start thinking about Advanced Health Care Directives and Do Not Resuscitate Orders until later in life, but it is always a good idea to plan ahead. The unexpected can happen at any time, and the more pre-planning you put into your health care wishes, the easier it is on your potentially burdened family members.

What is an advanced health care directive? 

An advanced health care directive is an umbrella term for a number of documents. These documents inform your physician how you would like them to proceed with your medical care in the event that you are not cognizant enough to articulate your desires yourself. For instance, if you are suffering from late-stage Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or another form of dementia, you may not be legally able to speak for yourself. If you have a stroke or are in a car crash, you may not be conscious. 

A good advanced health care directive will lay out a plan for several different scenarios. For instance, if you have a terminal illness, the directives should map out how you would like medical personnel to act. If you do not wish medical staff to perform certain procedures on you, you must indicate this in an advanced health care directive. 

What are some examples of advanced health care directives? 

A common advanced health care directive is a living will. Usually, these will come into effect if you have six months or less to live. With a living will, you can let medical staff know if you wish for them to use a respirator on you if you stop breathing, or use feeding tubes if you are unable to eat. You can also specify the use of antibiotics or surgeries.

A durable power of attorney for health care is also a form of advanced health care directive. With this, you can name another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. 

What is a do not resuscitate order? 

Medical experts refer to a do not resuscitate order as a “DNR.” A DNR is a request for medical staff not to perform CPR on you if you stop breathing or your heart stops working. When people die in hospitals, most of the time they have a DNR. Depending on your medical condition at the time, you may wish to have one of these if CPR will likely not help you much. Examples of such conditions include poor kidney function, a very bad stroke or somebody with a severe infection. 

DNRs and advanced care directives help you and your loved ones prepare competently for death. However, ensuring you present your wishes in a legally-viable manner is vital. Contact us today at AmeriEstate to ensure that you get the end of life care you request.