A “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order is a legal order written in a hospital or in conjunction with a doctor that states you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), or intubation if your heart or breathing should stop.
If you have a DNR, doctors, emergency medical service responders, and other health professionals are legally obligated to respect your medical decisions and may not attempt life-saving techniques.
When a DNR goes into effect
A DNR only applies in situations where the patient’s heart or breathing has stopped. Even with a DNR, a patient may still receive medical treatments, medicines, surgeries, and procedures.
How to create a DNR
A DNR must be completed with a doctor. Your doctor will provide you with your state’s DNR forms and will countersign the documents with you.
An advance directive is not a DNR
Be aware that an advance directive and living will are not DNRs. Even if your advance directive or living will states that you wish not to be resuscitated, you need to fill out the specific DNR forms with your doctor. Without a proper DNR, doctors, emergency medical service responders, and other health professionals will attempt resuscitation if your heart or breathing stop.
Helpful tip: To have a complete advance directive, you need a living will and a healthcare proxy (or healthcare power of attorney). Creating a DNR does not mean that your living will is ignored. You can have a DNR and still receive life-support treatments.
How to store your DNR
It's important that medical professionals know you have created DNR forms and don’t want to be resuscitated. In order to make sure that your caregivers and other medical professionals know you've signed a DNR, you'll want to give a copy of the form to your doctor, to any medical specialists or health professionals who may be caring for you, and to your healthcare proxy.
In addition, you'll want to make sure that a copy of your DNR form is prominently displayed in your home or somewhere on your person so that emergency medical responders know not to attempt resuscitation. Your doctor can help you get an official DNR bracelet, which you can wear at all times to let emergency medical responders and other health professionals know that you have signed a DNR.
Things to Consider
- It’s important for this document to be readily available during a medical emergency to prevent resuscitation by an ambulance crew, for example.
- Some people keep a copy of their DNR on the refrigerator or on their person at all times, so it’s always easily accessible.
- If you require a more specific medical document regarding end-of-life treatments, look into obtaining a POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) if it’s available in your state.
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