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Is a DNR the Same as an Advance Directive?

Have you discussed your medical preferences with your loved ones? It’s important to have those wishes in writing to ensure you get the best possible care just in case you can’t communicate them yourself. However, when it comes to getting their estate planning documents in order, many people confuse DNRs with advance directives. 

A DNR is not the same as an advance directive. While both documents are crucial in planning for future healthcare emergencies, they each serve different purposes. In this post, we explain the difference between a DNR and an advance directive to help you make informed choices for your estate plan. 

What Is a DNR?

A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order is a medical order you can request from your doctor. It instructs healthcare professionals not to perform CPR if your heart stops beating or if you stop breathing. The DNR gets added to your medical chart, and you may also keep a copy in your wallet or hang one on your fridge. 

Unlike an advance directive, your DNR does not have to be a part of your estate plan. DNRs are typically discussed and implemented in a hospital or healthcare setting. They focus solely on resuscitation—DNRs do not address any other types of medical interventions or treatment preferences. 

People often choose to have a DNR when they’re facing a terminal illness, or they might decline in order to avoid aggressive life-saving measures. But if you want to plan ahead just in case there is ever a time when you are unable to make healthcare decisions on your own, you’ll need an advance directive. 

What Is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that outlines your healthcare preferences and decisions in advance. It provides detailed guidance to the healthcare professionals who treat you. It also explains your wishes to your family members if you are ever unable to communicate or make medical decisions due to incapacitation. 

Unlike a DNR that’s ordered by a doctor, advance directives are drafted by attorneys and included in your estate plan. An advance directive is a legally binding document that must be created and signed in compliance with state laws. 

Whether or not you choose to have a DNR, it’s essential that your estate plan includes an advance directive that covers a broader range of healthcare decisions. For instance, a living will can outline your preferences regarding life support, tube feeding, organ donation, surgery, end-of-life care, and more. 

Having an advance directive can also provide peace of mind, since you’ll know that the people closest to you will be able to make informed decisions if you can no longer advocate for yourself. It can also prevent disputes between loved ones fighting over what they each believe to be the best treatment options. 

Medical POAs and Living Wills

The two most common types of advance directives are living wills and medical power of attorney (POA). A medical POA will grant someone you trust the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. A living will, on the other hand, is a written document describing the treatment you would or wouldn’t want if you were incapacitated. Every estate plan should include at least one advance directive, but it can be beneficial to include both because a living will can help your POA agent make informed decisions.  

Your Estate Plan Protects More Than Your Assets

Creating an estate plan is about much more than guiding the distribution of your assets when you’re gone. It can also ensure that your healthcare preferences are understood if you ever become incapacitated. Whether you need to create your estate plan or add new documents, the Phelps LaClair team is here to help. 

We’ll work with you to draft a living will, a medical power of attorney, and other essential estate planning documents that suit your needs. Give us a call at 480-892-2488 to schedule a free consultation at one of our convenient locations throughout the Phoenix Valley. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/20/2024). Photo by Zhen H on Unsplash 

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