What is DNR, Living Will, Healthcare POA

In Ohio, a DNR gives individuals the opportunity to exercise their right to limit care received in emergency situations or special circumstances. This includes care given by emergency personnel when 911 is called. (If you live in Michigan, click here for specific state-related information)

Essentially, the DNR tells others that you do not wish to receive CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) when your heart stops functioning or you have stopped breathing.

CPR means:

  • Administration of chest compressions
  • Insertion of an artificial airway
  • Administration of resuscitative drugs
  • Defibrillation
  • Provision of respiratory assistance
  • Initiation of resuscitative IV line
  • Initiation of cardiac monitoring

While this procedure is a vital life-saving measure for someone who is generally healthy when they have a cardio pulmonary crisis, it actually can be physically harmful to someone who is frail from prolonged illness or old age. People in this circumstance often choose DNR.

What a DNR Means

It is important to know that care that eases pain and suffering will always be implemented regardless of a DNR Order. Additional care will also be provided depending on the specific order that your doctor writes for you. It is best to discuss with your doctor the best option for you and your medical needs before your DNR Order is written.

A DNR Order must be written by a physician or nurse practitioner. It can be honored in many settings including–but not limited to–nursing facilities, residential care facilities, hospitals, outpatient care centers, homes and public places. For the DNR to be useful, it must be recognizable and available to healthcare workers.

Some choose to display the DNR in their homes and take it with them when they are away from home. A wallet card is another way to clarify your DNR status, but in Ohio, it must have the Ohio DNR logo on it to be valid.

Even if you are healthy now, you can state that you do not want CPR if you ever become terminally ill. Assure your wishes are known and speak to your physician today.

Living Will

A Living Will is a document that allows you to establish – in advance – the type of medical care you would want to receive if you were to become permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to tell your physician or family what type of life-sustaining care you want to receive. A Living Will also allows you to specify your wishes about organ or tissue donation.

You do not need a physician to complete a Living Will. You can complete the forms on your own. The most important step, however, is to be sure your family understands your wishes and has a copy of your Living Will so they can access it in the event you cannot speak for yourself.

Unlike a Healthcare Power of Attorney, which designates an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf at any time in your life that you become incapacitated, a Living Will is only used at the end of life.  Before your Living Will can be implemented, you must be:

  1. Terminally ill and unable to tell your physician your wishes about healthcare treatments.
  2. Permanently unconscious – two physicians must decide that you have no reasonable possibility of regaining consciousness (one physician must be a medical specialist in an appropriate field).

Regardless of your condition, if you are able to speak and tell your physician your wishes about life-prolonging treatment, your Living Will cannot be used.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to name a person who can act on your behalf to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. Unlike a Living Will, it is not limited to times in which you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. An example of this would be following a car accident

The Healthcare Power of Attorney also allows you to nominate a guardian to your person and a guardian to your estate. Your nomination is not a guarantee of guardianship, but will be taken into account if the issue is ever brought to Probate Court.

If you have a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will, healthcare workers must follow the wishes in your Living Will once it becomes active. In other words, the Living Will takes precedence over the Healthcare Power of Attorney.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is different than a financial power of attorney as it only addresses issues related to healthcare.

The person you name as Healthcare Power of Attorney–by completing the Healthcare Power of Attorney form–has the power to authorize and refuse medical treatment for you. This authority is recognized in all medical situations where you are unable to speak for yourself. You can complete the forms to assign a Healthcare Power of Attorney on your own. It is essential that you communicate this information to your family so they know who to turn to should the time come to implement the Healthcare Power of Attorney.