Difference Between a DNR and Living Will

Kristen Marks

by Kristen Marks

Kristen Marks is a travel enthusiast, empty-nest mom to two young adult children, athlete, attorney, author, speaker, proud wife of almost three decades (to the same wonderful man!), and the founder of My Pink Lawyer®, Florida Estate & Legacy Planning attorneys. Kristen has been crafting professional estate plans for Floridians and their families for over 28 years.

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My dad died earlier this month.

Although he had been declining in health for quite some time, it was still unexpected. I am still processing his loss.

98f33061-4305-4c95-a34a-0155a9f62afd_(1)When my stepmom found my dad unresponsive one morning in late December, there was some confusion about my dad’s medical directives.

Although my dad had signed a Living Will years ago, his doctor never signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. Given his rapidly declining poor health, I suspect that my dad might have considered a DNR had he been explained the difference between a DNR and a Living Will.

While both documents address end-of-life scenarios, they serve distinct purposes.

A Living Will (a medical directive that we often prepare for clients in our office as a part of their estate plans) is a legal document that outlines an individual’s preference regarding medical treatment in case a person becomes unable to communicate their wishes.

In layman’s terms, a Living Will in Florida says that if you become incapacitated and unable to express your own medical wishes AND you have either a terminal condition, an end-stage condition, or you are in a persistent vegetative state AND two physicians have determined that there is no medical probability of your recovery AND the only way your body can be kept alive it by artificial means, under all of those circumstances, you would NOT want to be maintained indefinitely on artificial life support.

Living Wills are common medical directives that many estate planning clients choose to sign in our office.

You can download your own Five Wishes Living Will health care directive from our website here.

A DNR order, on the other hand, is a medical directive that indicates a person’s desire to avoid CPR in the vent of cardiac or respiratory arrest. When a person has a DNR order signed by their physician, medical professionals will not attempt life-saving measures, such as chest
compressions, artificial ventilation, or defibrillation.

While both a DNR and a Living Will can be crucial components of advance care planning, they serve different purposes. A DNR focuses specifically on the decision to withhold CPR during emergencies, while a Living Will provides a more comprehensive set of instructions regarding various medical interventions in the event of incapacitation.

Who knows? Perhaps even if my dad did have a DNR, he may still have lingered the week that he did in the hospital anyway. It was sad to watch but at least my stepmom and I take comfort knowing that he was not in any pain at the end.

Kristen “Navigating Loss of a Parent Sucks” Marks



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