Though the idea of becoming incapacitated one day may seem intolerable and frightening for many of us, the end of everyone’s life is unavoidable, sooner or later. Thus, a much wiser decision is not to hide from this truth but to make the end of your life more manageable and comfortable for you and your family members, no matter when it is to come.
Two primary healthcare-related forms frequently cited by advocates of end-of-life planning are the living will and the NDR order. These documents voice the essential emergency care preferences of patients and clarify to what extent you want to have life-sustaining treatments to be administered. We will explain the differences between these documents and help you decide if you need to get any of them prepared.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a legal document voicing all your preferences and instructions about end-of-life care, coming into force once you get incapacitated and can’t communicate these decisions yourself. If you still don’t have one, consider using online builders, such as FormsPal, to prepare this document and notarize it. Nobody knows when a disaster might strike — maybe in several decades or perhaps tomorrow. So, by having a living will, you can always have peace of mind, knowing that your emergency or end-of-life health care needs are acknowledged.
Keep in mind that you can include the following aspects into your living will:
- Preferences regarding tube feeding
- Dialysis for removal of waste from your organism if you experience kidney failure
- Administration of antibiotics and antiviral medications for infection treatment
- CPR used to restart your heart in cases of clinical death
- Mechanical ventilation of your lungs to make you breathe when your lungs already fail or some obstruction prevents you from natural breathing
- Palliative care measures to keep pain and negative symptoms under control
- Your preferences regarding organ and tissue donation after death
- Body donation for scientific purposes
Thus, as you can see, you can discuss many things in a living will. It’s not necessary to make life-changing decisions once and for all. A living will can be reviewed and adjusted whenever your life values or healthcare preferences change.
What Is a DNR Order?
DNR stands for “do not resuscitate,” a medical order with a narrower meaning than the living will. While the living will can include the CPR instructions (which is essentially the DNR order), a DNR is a standalone document that you file to your doctor. It will be of value for you even if you don’t have a living will or if it doesn’t cover this aspect. You can compose a new DNR order every time you get admitted to the hospital, thus ensuring that your CPR preferences remain up to date.
Pros and Cons of Having a DNR Order
The standard of care presupposes that people in most conditions will be attempted to resuscitate if their heart stops. At least an effort will be made to bring them back to life, though the price for such resurrection can be too high at times. People whose brains suffered a deficit of oxygen for too long often do not recover completely, suffering extensive brain damage or liver failure. Knowing the risks, many people prefer not to push their luck, dying with dignity and avoiding days or months of life on life-sustaining apparatuses after successful resuscitation. If you are one of them, then having a completed DNR order is a good solution for any emergencies.
However, in some medical cases, it is the doctor’s decision not to resuscitate chronically ill patients in a declining condition. While some can regard this as discrimination against the sick or the elderly, such decisions typically rest on the comprehensive medical evaluation of the patient and assess the costs and benefits of their resuscitation. If you disagree with such an assessment and want to have a second chance, you should make this wish explicit in your living will.
As medical practice shows, the power to make end-of-life decisions rests with the patient. You can benefit from this right only if you make all preparations and voice your wishes in a series of healthcare documents speaking for you in case you’re unable to do so as a result of incapacitation. Medical doctors also have a say in end-of-life situations, but their decisions should still align with your officially voiced preferences and your best interests.
As you might understand from this review, both a living will and a DNR order are varieties of advance directives. These documents provide instructions for the healthcare professionals regarding your preferences for medical treatment in cases of emergencies or incapacitation, thus allowing you to plan health care and have everything under control. While a living will encompasses the DNR instructions, having both documents in place is an additional guarantee that your preferences will be heard and respected.