Tag Archives: advance health care directives

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form


A living will is one directive you complete documenting your end of life choices. 

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is another kind of advance directive documenting your end of life choices.

Here are some common questions and answers about a DNR.

What is the purpose of a DNR?

Why do you need to complete a living will and a DNR?

What happens if the  paramedics do not know you have signed a DNR?

How do you create an out of hospital DNR?

Q.   What is the purpose of a DNR?

A.  A DNR is a request not to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.  Unless paramedics or other emergency staff is given other instructions, they will try to resuscitate any patient whose heart has stopped or who has stopped breathing.

FACT: The exact rules for obtaining a DNR and for proving its validity vary widely from state to state.

Once you complete a DNR, make sure your physician and others are aware of your wishes.  Give a copy of your DNR to your primary physician and request that this information is added to your medical records.  If you are in a hospital, make sure a copy of your DNR is included with your medical chart.  Keep a copy of the original DNR form in your estate planning files.

FACT: Generally, doctors and hospitals in all states respect DNR orders.

<a href=”#return”>RETURN</a>

Q. Why do you need to complete a living will and a DNR?

A. The directions in your living will are only followed when your doctor believes you are in a terminal state and will not recover from your illness or injury.  The directions in your DNR are effective the moment you sign them and do not require any type of medical condition to be present for the DNR to be effective.

Elderly people sometimes want a DNR if they suffer from chronic illnesses and are concerned that their quality of life will suffer if they require resuscitation.

Q. What happens if the paramedics do not know you have completed a DNR?

A. If the paramedics or other medical personnel cannot locate your DNR, they will make an effort to save your life.

You can help the paramedics make the right treatment choices in several ways:

· Participate in the Vial of Life program.  The Vial of Life program is a nationwide effort to assist emergency personnel administer proper medical treatment for you when you can’t speak for yourself. A Vial of Life sticker is placed on your door.  This sticker tells the paramedic to look for your DNR and other medical information in a vial placed in your refrigerator. Some people recommend storing the DNR in the freezer in a blue freezer bag, as paramedics are trained to look there for DNR documents.

· Some states authorize the use of identification bracelets or tags as a way for you to notify medical personnel that you have signed a DNR.  Although all states authorize the use of a DNR, some states require special paper be used when printing as a means of authentication.


Kathy’s 92-year old mother was at Kathy’s house watching TV when she suddenly said she could not breathe. Kathy called an ambulance.

As they prepared to take her mother to the hospital, Kathy explained to the paramedic that she and her mother had decided not to resuscitate if the situation was such that her quality of life could be impaired.

The paramedic asked to see the DNR form.  Kathy replied the form was at her mother’s house in another state. Kathy could not provide a copy of the DNR signed by her mother to the paramedic.

The paramedic said they were allowed to wait sixty seconds for someone to provide the DNR.  After that, they are required by law to administer all available life saving techniques.

Kathy now keeps a copy of the DNR in her freezer and in her purse.  Her mother wears a DNR bracelet.


Q. How do you complete a DNR?

A. Your physician must complete and sign a DNR on your behalf.  In some states, you must wear a DNR bracelet showing you have a DNR on file.    The DNR state rules identify the name of the form required in your state and other facts you need to create an effective DNR. 

Like all legal documents, you need to complete a DNR before you  have a heart attack or other medical condition that would appear to compromise your mental abilities.   Once your mental capacity has been substantially compromised, it is possible for a physician to determine that you lack sufficient mental capacity to provide informed medical consent.

If the physician considers your mental capacity is diminished, it will be too late for you to instruct the medical staff not to resuscitate you.  These orders must be made when you are healthy.



HIPPA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed in 2003.  In an effort to protect your privacy, HIPPA restricts the freedom of medical care providers to share medical information about you with anyone, even family members, without your consent.

The provisions of HIPPA give you the right to view information contained in your medical records and to designate other persons with whom your medical information may be shared.

Here are some questions and answers about HIPPA.

Do you need to complete a HIPPA form in order for your spouse or family to see copies of your medical records?

Wht if you have not completed a HIPA form giving someone the legal right to view your medical records?

How can you authorize someone to access your medical records?


Q. Why do you need to complete a HIPPA form in order for your health care agent or family members spouse see copies of your medical records?

A. If you want your medical information shared with someone, you must complete a HIPPA Authorization to Release Information form naming and authorizing the people you will allow to see the records maintained by your physician or hospital.  Access to these records will be important for whomever is in charge of making medical decisions for you.

The list should certainly include your health care agent.  Whether you want your medical information shared with your family is up to you.  If you have old and trusted friends to whom you frequently turn for advice, you may want to name them as well.

Once you sign a HIPPA Authorization to Release Information form, you should give a copy to your family physician.

Although you can add a clause to your Health Care Power of Attorney form giving your health care agent and family access to your personal medical records, it is also wise to sign a separate HIPPA form identifying the people whom you want to have access to your records.

Q. What if you have not completed a HIPPA form giving someone the legal right to view your medical records?

A. Without a written authorization from you to share your medical records, medical professionals and medical facilities face stiff penalties for violating HIPPA.

Without advanced authorization by you, your health care agent will not be able to access the information about you to make an informed decision about the best plan of care for you.

Q   How can you authorize someone to access your medical records?


In Case of Emergency (ICE)


ICE is a list of persons you want contacted in case of emergency, stored in your cell phone. 

Here are some common questions and answers about ICE.

What is ICE?

How does ICE work?

Q.  What is ICE?

A.  If you are in a car accident or some other event requiring unexpected medical care, the physicians and emergency personnel must find a way to contact someone regarding your medical emergency.  Time is important.  Some medical procedures require authorization from a spouse or a health care agent before treatment can begin.  A shorthand process has been developed to facilitate this communication process, referred to as ICE.  ICE stands for In Case of Emergency.

Q. How Does ICE Work?

A. ICE reflects the list of persons who you want contacted in case of an emergency.  This list of persons and their telephone numbers (and other information) is stored on your cell phone.  The steps are as follows:

  • Decide whom you want contacted in case of emergency.
  • Enter ICE as the contact name in your cell phone contact list.
  • Add the phone number of the person you want called in case of emergency.
  • If you want to name more than one person, make an ICE1 and ICE2 entry in your contact list.

FACT: If you are injured in an emergency, paramedics and other emergency responders are trained to examine your cell phone and look under “ICE” to see who ought to be contacted to give your whereabouts and condition.

If you own an Apple Iphone, there are several ICE applications available.  These applications allow you to enter emergency contact information and other types of health information. 

Let’s talk about dying!

Today is National Health Care Directives Day.   A day to talk about death.    A day to talk about Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney forms, referred to as advance health care directives.

Why is it important to talk about dying and health care directives.  It’s simple.     We will all die.   However,  the way we will die will be different than the way our grandparents died.   They died fast, due to acute illnesses like influenza or pneumonia.  A government study envisions that today, 80 percent will die a lingering death from things like Alzheimer’s, emphysema, cancer and Parkinson’s.   Our children or our spouse will need to make choices on our behalf between life…and quality of life.

When having dinner with your friends or family tonight, think about that sobering number.   Three out of the four people sitting at the dinner table will die a lingering death.    Someone will need the legal authority to make health care choices on your behalf.   Someone will be hoping they are making the choice you would have wanted.

Rather than talking about the  engagement ring Brad gave Angelina….make your dinner conversation important.    Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to make health care choices on your behalf?
  • What choices do you want them to make?
  • Do you want to donate your organs or your tissues?
  • Have you completed a living will and a health care power of attorney form documenting these wishes.   If so, where are they?    In California and some other states, these two forms are combined in a single form referred to as an Advance Health Care Directive.

Your estate planning lawyer can help you complete a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney form.     You have the right to complete these forms without involving a lawyer.

Hers’s some resources that may help you start the discussion:

A great presentation by Dr. Peter Saul at the TED conference called “Let’s talk about dying.”
When families can’t agree what to do:   A personal experiences described in the San Jose Mercury News:  http://www.mercurynews.com/cost-of-dying/ci_20403982/national-day-support-end-life-health-care-planning
Where Can You Get Free Health Care Directive Forms:   https://diesmart.com/elder-law/living-wills/