DNR Orders Explained

Every mentally competent patient has the right to either accept or refuse any medical treatment recommended to him or her by healthcare providers and medical professionals. This right has been called “a fundamental principle of liberty” and patients may exercise it even if the treatment offered is considered to be lifesaving. In the US, this right is guaranteed by law and enshrined in the American Hospital Association Patient’s Bill of Rights. These legal protections prevent medical professionals from forcing a mentally competent, adult patient to accept treatment even in life-threatening situations.

If a person experiencing a medical event is unconscious and cannot communicate his or her wishes with regards to medical procedures, some individuals carry a DNR or Do Not Resuscitate order with them. A DNR order is designed to prevent medical staff and other persons from performing CPR on the person. In this article, we will offer a brief overview of what this document includes and how to create it.

What Should a DNR Order Include?

A typical DNR order may state that the person who carries it doesn’t want to undergo any procedure whose aim is to restore blood circulation and heartbeat in the event of cardiac arrest. Such procedures include CPR, intubation to connect the patient to a breathing machine, electric shocks, and emergency medications.

In New Jersey, a patient may obtain a DNR order both in and out of a hospital setting. A legally valid DNR order can also be requested and authorized by a health care agent. Additionally, DNRs can be established by a doctor if the patient is unable to communicate but has a valid living Will or advance health care directive in place that clearly states his or her wishes. 

DNR Orders vs. Advance Healthcare Directives

Although not the same, Do Not Resuscitate orders fall into the same category as Advance Healthcare Directives. The purpose of such documents is to allow an individual to express their wishes with regards to medical procedures they wish to accept or reject in advance in case they are unable to make such decisions themselves. It is important to note, however, that while a DNR order may be a part of an Advance Healthcare Directive, it is also possible to establish such an order as an independent document. In other words, a person doesn’t have to have an Advance Directive to be able to create a DNR order.

If you have any other questions about legal documents related to your treatment preferences or if you would like to create any such documents, do not hesitate to contact the Matus Law Group. During a personal consultation, a member of our team may help you better understand your needs and advise you with regards to legal tools such as a living Will, advance health care directive, and medical power of attorney. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.