DNR or Living Will--What's the difference?

As estate lawyers, we often see clients who use the terms DNR ("Do Not Resuscitate") and Living Will almost interchangeably. However, in Florida, they are different in many ways.

A Living Will is a declaration made by a person as to their intentions in the event they are faced with a terminal illness, an end-stage condition or a permanent vegetative state. This is a document, often prepared by an estate lawyer, which is signed declaring one's intention and often appointing a person, known as a "health surrogate", to speak for the person if they are unable to do so. 

A DNR in Florida is a state-approved form (DH Form 1896) which is signed by a person (or their surrogate) and by that person's physician directing that the person not be resuscitated in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. The DNR is not prepared by nor is there normally a lawyer involved. It is filled out and signed by the patient and physician, often in a hospital, nursing home or hospice setting.

There is an important difference between a DNR and a Living Will in terms of the immediacy of it's implementation. A DNR is usually immediate such that if a person were to stop breathing, no efforts to revive will be made. With a Living Will, the implementation is less immediate. If a person stops breathing, they will be resuscitated on an emergency basis but if once revived are found to be terminal, then future efforts may not be made. 


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