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Do Not Resuscitate Orders: What You Need to Know

Web Admin - Thursday, May 29, 2014

illinois dnr estate planning attorneyAdvances in medical science and technology have made it possible to revive patients after their heart or lungs have stopped working, often known as heroic measures. One of the most common ways of doing this is via simple mouth to mouth resuscitation or chest compressions. Doctors may also use an electric shock to restart the heart, or they may insert a breathing tube down a person’s throat to open the airway. Additionally, drugs like epinephrine may help restart a person’s heart in the event that it stops. The availability of technologies like these though has led to the proliferation of Do Not Resuscitate orders (“DNR”).

What Is a DNR?

A DNR is a type of “advance healthcare directive.” These are documents that people fill out prior to serious illness or injury that affect the type of care a person will receive. The DNR is a specific advance directive that instructs doctors not to perform heroic measures to resuscitate the person.

DNRs apply only to the narrow issue of resuscitation, so it is important not to confuse it with the two other common types of advance directives: living wills and healthcare powers of attorney. Living wills are a different type of advance directive that have broader applications. Living wills allow a person to record their feelings on a variety of life sustaining treatments like the use of feeding tubes and respirators.

Healthcare powers of attorney transfer the authority to make healthcare decisions to another person in the event that they are unable to make healthcare decisions for themselves. Ordinarily, this document will matter most in situations where a person’s condition is not serious enough to implicate the instructions in a living will, but when they are unable to speak.  

DNR orders are important medical documents that can have profound consequences on a person’s quality of life. Therefore, people should understand the different considerations that can affect whether to institute a DNR.

Elements to Consider

There are two important elements someone should consider when thinking about implementing a DNR: their current quality of life and the effectiveness of resuscitation. With regard to quality of life, resuscitation is often necessary because of ongoing medical problems that may or may not ever improve. These health issues can have a serious effect on a person’s quality of life and may even remove the desire to be resuscitated in the event of death. In fact, a survey of doctors revealed that, knowing the quality of life many resuscitated patients have, 88.3 percent would choose to implement a DNR. Part of that is likely because of the second concern, the effectiveness of resuscitation.

While CPR and other measures can often bring people back to life, it is not a perfect tool. Many CPR attempts result in broken ribs, and often, even though the person survives, the experience leaves them with neurological damage. While many people choose to forego DNRs, it is a very personal decision that should only be made after understanding all of the facts involved.

If you are considering implementing a DNR or another advance directive, seek the advice of an Illinois estate planning lawyer today. Our skilled attorneys help clients make these difficult decisions in towns across the northwest suburbs including Inverness, Long Grove, and South Barrington.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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