A young husband and father, who was fairly healthy with the exception of a bum knee, was a bit nervous about his impending knee surgery and thought it prudent to have his ducks-in-a-row. So, in preparation for his knee surgery, he had his last will and testament, his living will and durable powers of attorney prepared. However, after admission to the hospital, I received a frantic call from my client; apparently a nurse advised my client that since he had a Living Will, it included a Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) order, and if he had a heart attack during his knee surgery the medical staff would not administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Contrary to the nurse’s assertions, a living will merely authorizes your physician to issue a DNR order. Unlike a living will, the DNR order must be written and signed by a physician, not you as the patient. If your physician believes that a DNR is appropriate and consistent with reasonable medical standards, s/he can execute a DNR order. The Ohio Department of Health has developed a standard Order that is generally recognized in nursing facilities, residential care facilities, hospitals, outpatient facilities and emergency services. When a patient has a DNR, a treatment protocol is activated, and the time of activation depends on the type of DNR order that a patient has, a Comfort Care Order, or a Comfort Care-Arrest Order. Under the Comfort Care Order a person receives care that eases pain and suffering, but no resuscitative measures to save or sustain life. This protocol is activated immediately when a valid DNR order is issued or when a living will requesting no CPR becomes effective. In the Comfort Care-Arrest Order, a person receives standard medical care until the time he or she experiences a cardiac or respiratory arrest. This protocol is activated when the patient has a cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The DNR Comfort Care protocol is very specific in terms of what treatment is to be given and what treatment is to be withheld. Only those items listed on the “will not” list are to be withheld. The items listed on the “will” list, along with any other treatment that may be needed for the patient’s condition, may be provided as appropriate.
While there is a great deal of debate among various professionals as to the appropriateness of having a DNR order, including doctors and spiritual advisors, only you can decide whether a DNR order is right for you. Having a DNR does not mean you are refusing all medical care. Rather, a DNR order gives you the option to choose to die when your time comes. To determine whether a DNR order is right for you, consult an estate planning attorney at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer, Co., LPA.