Advanced Directives, Living Wills and Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders

Hospital Bed

In end-of-life situations, each individual has the right to make decisions about how he or she would like to meet his or her end, or death. However, at the end of a person’s life, he or she may not be mentally capable of making sound decisions about end-of-life care. There can be confusion if a terminal person is unable to communicate his or her end-of-life wishes due to mental impairment, unconsciousness, or severity of his or her condition. There can also be confusion if his or her loved ones prefer a course of treatment that is contradictory to the course of treatment he or she had specified earlier in his or her life. To help reduce confusion on these issues, and to ensure that an individual receives the end-of-life care that he or she wants to receive, there are a handful of related legal documents that can be used to memorialize one’s end-of-life care decisions.

Advanced Directives

An advanced directive is a legal document in which a person, either independently or in consultation with his or her health care professional or legal representation, can indicate his or her end-of-life care decisions. As the name implies, advanced directives are usually created before a person’s condition deteriorates. Advanced directives are to be honored across various medical care administration settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in your residence or en route to a healthcare facility, such as a hospital.

Living Wills

A living will indicate to medical providers what type of medical care you want to receive in the event that you are dying or permanently unconscious. This legal document allows you to refuse medical or surgical treatment and indicates that you accept the consequences of such refusal. The Illinois Department of Public Health has a standard Living Will Declaration form which can be accessed here.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders, or DNR orders, are used to create a physician order that reflects an individual’s wishes about receiving certain life-prolonging medical treatments, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and life-sustaining treatments, such as medical interventions and artificially administered nutrition and/or hydration. DNR orders are voluntarily entered into and you are not required to consent to a DNR order as a condition of receiving medical treatment. A DNR order is normally a form that is to be filled out by the individual ordering the DNR, or by his or her legal representative. The Illinois Department of Public Health offers a Uniform Do-Not-Resuscitate Advance Directive form, which can be accessed here. If at some point in time after creating a DNR order, an individual changes his or her mind about end-of-life care, the DNR order can be revoked at any time by writing “VOID” in large letters across the first page of the form or destroying the form and any existing copies.

If you are concerned that the nursing home where your loved one resides is not adhering to your loved one’s advanced directives, please contact the attorneys at Rooth Law Firm either online or by phone at (800) 350-0646.

Photo Credit: Pollobarba via Compfight cc

Sources:

Illinois Department of Public Health, Statement of Illinois Law on Advanced Directives and DNR Orders

Illinois Department of Public Health, IDPH Uniform DNR Advanced Directive Guidance for Individuals

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