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Estate Planning Atlanta: DNRs – Do-Not-Resuscitate – Orders Overview

DNR Atlanta and Decatur - establishing a do not resuscitate order

Casual conversations about do-not-resuscitate orders (DNRs) are often filled with incorrect information. If you’re working on your estate planning, here’s what you need to know…

Many people think that having a DNR covers all life-saving methods. However, that is not correct.

Because I often get questions about this from my clients, I’d like to clarify what a DNR is, who can create a DNR on behalf of a patient, and what happens if you do not have a DNR.

What Exactly Is A DNR

A do-not-resuscitate order strictly applies to resuscitation in the form of CPR, cardiac drugs, or defibrillation. The order indicates that medical personnel will not try to revive you if your heart stops. It does not apply to intubation or any other life-saving method. Typically, DNR’s are requested by people with terminal illnesses, and frail, elderly patients on whom CPR might do more harm than good.

Some people think they need a DNR even if they are healthy because they fear that a complication resulting from CPR could leave them unconscious or unable to control their own care. A DNR is not the appropriate order for these concerns. A more effective option is a living will and/or a Medical Directive as part of an estate plan.

Unlike DNRs, a Medical Directive covers ventilators, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, dialysis, and other interventions that may be attempted during a health emergency. Medical Directives are created by both healthy and ailing individuals, and they’re designed to take effect if you cannot express your wishes in a health emergency. They do not cover resuscitation. So, if you do not have a DNR, CPR and other measures will be taken if necessary.

Who Can Establish A DNR

For anyone interested in establishing a DNR, your health care provider can create the necessary paperwork order for you. Explain your wishes to your doctor and they’ll outline your options and fill out the order on your behalf. If they’re unable to carry out your wishes, they’ll refer you to a doctor who can.

Getting the order is easy. But when you make the decision to establish a DNR, there are other steps you’ll need to take as well:

  • Notify your family of your decision. Ensure they are prepared to present the paperwork to responding EMS if outside of a hospital. You’ll also need to notify your healthcare agent and any caretakers.
  • Speak to your doctor about obtaining a wallet card, bracelet, or other identifying documentation to alert the public of your wishes.
  • Establish a Medical Directive that includes your DNR wishes. While a Medical Directive is separate from a do-not-resuscitate order, it’s often created around the same time because it addresses similar end-of-life decisions.

There may be occasions when a loved one no longer has capacity to sign a DNR. Please note that, unlike other health care documents like a Medical Directive, Georgia allows a Power of Attorney to sign the DNR on behalf of the incapacitated loved one.

If You Want To Reverse A DNR

If you’re healthy and have a DNR in place and you’ve decided that you want to reverse it, speak to your doctor immediately. Your doctor is the only one who can reverse a DNR order.

For those who are not healthy and the DNR order was requested by someone authorized to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient, such as a healthcare agent or guardian, that person generally has the authority to request that the order be reversed. But that individual must be an officially recognized caretaker in charge of a patient unable to care for themselves. It’s not enough to simply be a spouse or relative.

Establish A Medical Directive

In the event of unexpected accidents and illnesses anyone over 18 would benefit from having a Medical Directive. If you’re ready to make sure you maintain control over your health care and end of life wishes, through the creation of a Medical Directive, then give my office a call at 404-370-0696.


Looking to find an experienced estate lawyer in the Georgia area who is skilled in asset protection and estate plan preparation? Shannon Pawley is an attorney in Georgia with expertise in estate planning and asset protection. Shannon can provide assistance with creating an estate plan to include making a will and how to establish a trust properly. If you have questions about asset protection or questions about making an estate plan, reach out to Shannon and she will be glad to help answer all the estate planning questions you might have!

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