Justin, What’s the difference between a DNR and an Advance Directive? Aren’t they the same thing? Do I need both to be fully prepared for the future? – Pam
Pam, Actually a DNR and an Advance Directive are two very different things. The acronym DNR stands for “do not resuscitate,” and it is an order written by a physician or other medical professional to indicate that the patient should not receive CPR if his or her heart stops or he or she stops breathing. It is a very specific medical order meant to cover a very specific, emergency situation for those who, in most cases, are already known to be terminally ill.
On the other hand, an Advance Directive (also known as a Living Will) is a legal document signed by individuals themselves to indicate their wishes when it comes to end-of-life care. In most cases, Advance Directives are written to express a wish to die naturally without invasive procedures or life support machines if the individual is determined to be in a permanently unconscious state.
While a DNR is typically only appropriate for a patient who is already terminally ill, everyone looking to engage in estate planning should consider executing an Advance Directive regardless of age or health. Beyond that, everyone should also designate a healthcare power of attorney authorized to make medical decisions and, most importantly for purposes of your question, who has the power to enforce the wishes included in an Advance Directive when others may hesitate. These days, it’s not enough to simply state your wishes or even put them in writing; you must also give a trusted individual the power to enforce your wishes when the time comes.