Living Wills and DNRs From an Estate Planning Perspective

What is the difference between a living will and a DNR?

For most of us, it is uncomfortable to think about our own death. But, as people are living longer and medical technologies are becoming more advanced, it has become more likely that you will end up in a position where you are alive but unable to tell others what you want or to make decisions for yourself. There are a number of documents that can protect you in this type of situation. Two that are usually confused are the living will and the Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR).

A living will is a legal document that describes what type of medical care you would like to receive when you are nearing the end of your life. It is a document used to explain to medical professionals that you do not want medical care that will only postpone the inevitable.

A DNR is not the same thing. A DNR is a medical document executed by the patient used to tell medical professionals that you do not want to be resuscitated should your heart stop. In other words, it informs those caring for you that you do not want CPR.

Both documents are used to inform your medical providers about what type of treatment you want at the end of your life. Although the documents are very similar, the DNR kicks in closer to the time of death than the living will. The living will is also applicable in a variety of different situations.

In Indiana, a Physician Order for Scope of Treatment (POST) form can be used in place of a living will. On this form, you can designate which types of life-sustaining treatment, such as artificial nutrition, you would like administered at the end of your life. In many ways, the POST form is similar to a living will. The POST form, however, provides more detailed information to medical professionals.

Depending upon what your preferences are, your attorney should be able to steer you toward the document or documents that are right for you. Wouldn’t you rather have peace of mind in knowing that your end of life wishes will be carried out rather than depend on family members or medical providers to make such decisions?

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