You know that life is fragile and unpredictable, at best. However, you want to be as prepared as possible. That means trying to meet your end on your own terms. Both Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) orders can help you achieve that goal.
There are, however, some key differences between the two forms. Understanding their proper use can help you be more proactive about your end-of-life needs.
What’s a DNR?
A Do Not Resuscitate order is a medical order that has to be signed by a doctor. Essentially, it tells health care providers not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops nor to intervene if you stop breathing for another reason.
It does not speak to any other type of medical treatment or care, including the use of medications, IV fluids, feeding tubes and similar treatments.
What’s a POLST?
By comparison, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment are much broader. They’re designed to address a vast array of end-of-life decisions, like:
- When you wish to be transported to a hospital, if unable to state your own preferences
- What type of medical treatments you’ll accept to prolong your life, aside from comfort care
- Whether or not a feeding tube is acceptable if you’re unable to eat on your own (and, if so, how long you want the feeding tube to stay in)
Just like DNRs, POLSTs have to be signed by a physician to make them official.
Why consider either of these if you have a Living Will or a medical POA?
You may have already set up a living will and given someone your medical power of attorney (POA), but that doesn’t negate the purpose of a DNR or POLST. Without a DNR or POLST, medical providers (like EMTs and emergency room doctors) are required to do their best to revive you – even if you’re no longer breathing.
Your DNR and/or POLST should be filed with your local hospital and a copy kept on hand for emergencies. This is particularly true if you happen to be in fragile health.
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