DNR vs. Directive to Physicians: What’s the Difference?

Apr 28, 2015

It is  important to start thinking about, and prepping for, the unexpected. Many people will wait until they become older to think about end of life issues, but accidents and disability can be these tough decisions in front of families sooner than they anticipated.

Advance directives help to ensure that your preferences for medical treatment are met and carried out when you’re unable to communicate them yourself. There are various types of these directives – such as DRN orders and Directives to Physicians. They’re not as similar as you might think.

What does DNR mean?

A Do Not resuscitate (DNR) order is a type of advance directive, which indicates that you do not wish to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should your heart stop beating or you stop breathing. Without a DNR order in place, medical personnel will always attempt to help any patient in this scenario, regardless of the consequences. These orders are in place to not only prevent CPR from being administered, but also the use of artificial breathing tubes, electric heart shocks, and any other invasive emergency techniques.

There are two different types of DNR orders. An out-of-hospital, or prehospital, DNR order provides emergency medical personnel who may treat you with directions to not revive you.  If you’ve been admitted to a hospital, you can submit a separate DNR order that will be noted on your medical chart. Hospitals and doctors in every state are required to accept DRN orders.

A DNR order isn’t for everybody. Most who consider it are either terminally ill or are at a high risk for cardiac or respiratory arrest. It’s important to note that DNR orders are never permanent, and can be revoked at any time, should you choose to change your mind. You should consult with your doctor and/ or religious advisor before signing a DNR for yourself or a loved one.

What is a Directive to Physicians?

A Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates is another type of advance directive. It helps you communicate your wishes in regards to future medical treatment when you’re no longer able to do so because of an illness or injury. You can specify for the withholding or provision of medical care should you be diagnosed with a terminal/irreversible condition – as long as the condition is certified by your physician.

Take some time to discuss these wishes with your family, and especially with your physician and religious advisor, as they may be able to provide you with valuable resources to assist you in finalizing your directive.

Be sure copies of this directive get distributed to your doctor, local hospital, and family or executor. You will also need to provide guidance to them on the specifics of your treatment that is listed in the directive. Families can also provide additional instruction and peace of mind to their families and loved ones by providing a written plan of care that is drafted with the assistance of an elder law attorney and/pr care manager. Also, consider reviewing your advance directives periodically, in case your preferences or persons making the decisions for you happen to change over time.

How are they different?

Though a DNR order and a Directive to Physicians are both advance directives, they both serve a different purpose for different people. Whereas a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates is imperative for everyone to prepare at some point in their lives, do-not-resuscitate orders are more for those who expect to have a medical emergency either at home or in public.

Simply think of it this way: a Directive to Physicians describes the treatment (or lack thereof) you wish to receive in the future when you become too impaired to make decisions. DNR orders are implicit, and describe what should happen to you in the exact moment that you become incapacitated.

Unsure of which steps to take?

If you need a medical power of attorney, or have questions about DNR orders or Directive to Physicians, don’t hesitate to contact us at the Law Office of Christina Lesher PC by calling (713) 529-5900 or using our contact form. We’ll be happy to assist you and your family in making the best decisions for the future.

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