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The Differences Between a Living Will and a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen it comes to making decisions regarding the end of your life, there are many factors to consider. No matter how difficult it may be for you to think about, leaving such decisions to your loved ones to make can leave lasting feelings of guilt, regret, and wondering if they made the right choice. Fortunately, there are several ways you can prepare in advance regarding your desired end-of-life care. They represent an important but often overlooked element of the estate planning process.

Advance Medical Directives

There are two common ways in which you can make your end-of-life care decisions ahead of time, and both are considered types of advance medical directive. An advance medical directive, put simply, is contingency plan that specifies your wishes to be carried out if you are no longer able to make such decisions for yourself. Living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders allow you to maintain control of your own life to the very end.

Living Wills

A living will is often confused with the more commonly known will used in estate planning. As opposed to dealing with property and assets, a living will addresses which medical treatments you want or do not want in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal condition. A terminal condition is any injury or illness that is incurable, irreversible, and will result in death, and the use of death-delaying procedures will only slow the dying process. Your living will gives you the power to determine which, if any, death-delaying procedures should be used, as well as concerns like palliative care and organ donation.

It is important to keep in mind that a living will is a legal document which is often used in conjunction with a power of attorney for healthcare. The healthcare power of attorney grants decision-making authority over your medical care to a person of your choosing in the event you cannot make such decisions for yourself. Your power of attorney should be made aware of provisions contained in your living will.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders

A DNR, by comparison, is not considered a legal document. Instead, it is a medical document that must be signed by your attending physician and is then entered into your medical record. If you have a DNR on file, it means that you do not wish to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart or breathing stops while you are under medical care.

Remember that first responders such as emergency medical technicians or paramedics do not have access to your full medical record. If you experience a heart attack in public, for example, and emergency medical services (EMS) responds, there is a good chance that you will still receive CPR despite the order in your file.

It is not uncommon for a person to have both a DNR and living will. If you choose to draft both, your living will should address the fact that a DNR has been placed in your medical record.

An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

To learn more about living wills, DNR orders, or any other advance medical directives, contact an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney. Our compassionate team will work with you in developing a plan that meets your needs and protects your loved ones. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation today.

 

Sources:

http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/health-care-regulation/nursing-homes/advance-directives

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303

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