Advance medical directives communicate to doctors a person’s wishes when they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves. Two common types of advance medical directives are Living Wills (called a “Directive to Physicians” by statute) and DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate). Each document serves a unique function and is important to understand their differences when putting together an estate plan.
A Living Will is typically appropriate for a wider audience of people. It applies only when a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition. It can direct doctors to either administer, withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. For example, it could instruct doctors to use a ventilator, blood transfusions, or a feeding tube.
In contrast, a DNR communicates to doctors that resuscitation efforts should not be made when someone’s heart or breathing stops. Without a DNR, doctors usually attempt to resuscitate an individual, whether by using electric paddles, breathing tubes to open the airway, or administration of medication. DNRs instruct doctors to not to make these efforts. No diagnosis or assessment of treatment is made.