A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is a written document instructing health care providers to forgo resuscitative measures. If a person with a DNR suffers a heart attack or stops breathing, it lets the medical personnel know not to try to revive them with CPR, defibrillators, or other life saving procedures. The DNR order can be drafted by an attorney as part of a living will, or as a separate stand alone document.

What Are the Requirements for a DNR Order?

Requirements for DNRs vary from state to state, but in general, a valid order must:

  • Be signed by the individual or the individual’s legally recognized surrogate health care decision maker.
  • Direct any health care providers to forgo resuscitative measures.
  • Contain other relevant information required according to the appropriate state’s Probate Code.
  • Contain a physician’s signature (only in certain states)

Why Have a DNR Order?

DNR orders provide a clear indication of an individual’s wishes and can give direction to family members struggling with emotionally difficult choices, such as organ donation. Once created, a DNR order is entered onto a patient’s medical chart or other document that the individual caries with them at all times. This helps to ensure that the patient’s wishes will be honored.

How to Change a DNR Order?

If a person decides to revoke or change their DNR order, it can be altered at any time by the individual without a court order or a doctor’s permission.

How Do I Ensure a DNR Order Is Followed?

As with a Living Will, a DNR will likely be only invoked if you are incapacitated in some way. To ensure that your order is followed, make copies and distribute them beforehand to the all people involved with your healthcare choices, such as:

  • Your physician
  • Family members
  • A close friend
  • The nursing home where you stay (if applicable)

In addition, put a card in your wallet stating that you have a DNR Order and the phone number of someone who has a copy. This will help medical professionals with identifying your wishes and making sure they are followed.

Is there Any Liability Associated with DNR Orders?

Health care providers are required to follow DNR orders. If they fail to comply with the wishes listed on your DNR, they may be liable to you for medical malpractice and breach of duty.

A health care provider that honors your DNR order is immune from criminal prosecution, civil liability, professional disciplinary action, administrative sanction, or any other sanction for following your orders. The only requirement is that the health care provider must believe, in good faith, that their action was consistent with the law and that the health care provider had no knowledge that their decision would be inconsistent with the patient’s directive.

Do I Need an Attorney to Draft a DNR Order?

A DNR Order may be drafted without an attorney, but it may be best to consult with an experienced lawyer who can explain what this order means and how it will personally affect you. An estate attorney may also be needed if you plan to incorporate your DNR Order into a Living Will or any other legal document.