End-of-Life Care: Living Will vs Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

Living Will vs Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

It’s no secret that life is unpredictable. As unpleasant as it may sound, one day you can be enjoying your retirement days with your grandchildren, and the next you find yourself struck with an illness with the possibility of even becoming incapacitated. Since we don’t have full control over the course of our lives, it’s always best to plan preemptively how you’d like to be medically assisted in the case that you are unable to make and express your own decisions. Fortunately, two advance directives known as the Living Will and Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders exist for this very purpose. While both documents’ intended use is to reveal your intentions to your medical practitioner should you be in an end-of-life situation, the living will and the DNR have inherent differences that you should definitely be aware of before drafting either document.

Living Will vs Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

Living Will

A living will comes into play when you are deemed “incapacitated” by the court and are unable to make rational decisions. It allows you to outline your wishes regarding the type of medical treatment you would like to receive should you ever become incapacitated. For example, say that you become terminally ill and are unable to swallow or digest food due to a damaged esophagus. To remedy this scenario, your living will can state that you would like to receive tube-feeding, or any other treatments for different end-of-life ailments. Similarly, you also have the ability to preemptively decline said treatments. It’s important to note that a living will can be canceled or revoked at any time after it is written.

You should also keep note that refusing artificial treatment does not mean that you do not want to receive all of the possible life saving treatments. These are common misconceptions. Two doctors need to verify that all possible treatments have been used and all that is left is to keep you alive through artificial ways. It is at this moment that your living will can express your intended desires.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR)

Contrary to a living will which generally only states whether or not you would like to receive certain treatments should you become incapaciated, a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) is a document that prevents any doctor or practitioner from trying to save you if your heart stops. Medical agents won’t perform CPR or any other procedure that could potentially result in your resuscitation. Whether or not you add a DNR to your estate plan is an incredibly personal decision, we highly recommend to consult with friends and family as well as medical professionals before drafting one. You can also highly benefit from consulting with a licensed estate attorney who can guide you through setting up these documents to ensure that your wishes are made clear and followed.