What, exactly, is a “Do Not Resuscitate” order (DNR)?
It’s basically a type of advance directive… stating that you do not wish to receive cardio-pulmonary resuscitation if your heart stops. You give the form to your doctor, and it becomes a part of your medical record. And it’s accepted by hospitals and doctors in every state.
A DNR is not for everyone… particularly if you’re in good health. (I’m in pretty good health. So if I have an accident or crushing injury… I don’t want anyone to stop reviving me!!) It’s only for people who are already very ill, in the advanced stages of disease. To them, it can be a very helpful tool in carrying out their wishes.
There’s just one problem with DNR’s, though. Emergency medical personnel know nothing of any DNR you may have signed. And their job is to keep you alive until you get to a hospital. If your heart stops, they’ll try to revive you… whether you want to be revived or not!
And if you’re still alive when you arrive at the hospital, ER personnel will do the same. So your wishes – the patient’s wishes – are not respected! Why? Because, to emergency personnel, a doctor’s request carries more weight than a patient’s request.
This is where a “POLST” (Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment) can come in handy. POLST is designed to address the gap between advanced directives, such as Living Wills and Healthcare Surrogates, and real-time decisions made by medical personnel. In plain English – something not always heard in the medical world – it translates your wishes from legalese into “medicalese.”
If you have a serious illness, your physician can fill out forms addressing the steps you’d like followed (or not followed!) in various scenarios. This POLST form becomes the first page of your medical record. And you keep a copy with you wherever you go. This way, there’s no misinterpretation.
Several states – among them California, New York, Washington, and Oregon – have already adopted POLST. Florida hasn’t yet adopted it. But If I have anything to say about it, out state eventually will… because I serve on a committee working for the adoption of POLST here.
At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates, we’ve been helping to ensure that people’s wishes are followed for the past 33 years. In fact, we’ve helped thousands of South Florida families ensure their wishes have been followed, with comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset-protection plans, assistance with Medicaid and the VA… and, yes, Living Wills and Healthcare Surrogates.
We’re just a phone call away.
If You Haven’t Yet Heard About “POLST”… You Will Soon!