All people including lawyers need to use caution with Living Wills and the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) clause. Our relative who was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for 17 years said he would not sign a DNR because he thought if he did that it would allow physicians to cause his death. We respected his decision but could not believe that physicians who mainly preserve life would be anxious to end life. However, it turns out he was correct, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document does give a nursing home or a physician a green light to determine when or if a person can get medical care to preserve life.
When you are signing paper work to place your loved one in a nursing home they will tell you how humane a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) clause is, not requiring Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and/or a defibrillator which can break your loves one’s ribs. However, they do not inform you how bad it is for your loved one if they lose their mental or physical faculties unable to communicate their wishes for medical care and uncaring people determine the DNR means that they do not want medical care to extend their lives. Although my wife had a power of attorney requesting medical care for her Father, the Nursing Home staff just ignored us and our attempt to preserve the life of our family member.
It turns out they had our relative sign a DNR while in a mental fog of an infection. The physician made a misdiagnosis claiming this patient’s daughter (my wife) was mentally ill for trying to honor her Father’s last wishes. She could not adequately communicate with her Father so she had reservations about sanctioning an amputation of his leg without his consent which I thought was prudent. This physician had never even met or talked to my wife and had no psychiatric credentials we are aware of. But when a physician makes a notation in a medical file it has powerful weight with a Court even if the information is false. So the nursing home staff took the physicians view declaring my wife crazy for trying to preserve the life of her Father thus over ruling her rights as a power of attorney and were going to legally expunge the life of her Father who wanted to live.
Thus, a DNR in some circumstances can be more powerful than a power of attorney. I do not believe we are the only victims of this abuse of a DNR clause that some misguided people use to prematurely extinguish the value of human life. The common practice with the fervent sales pitch to get family members to sign a DNR out of humanity may be valid to a certain extent, but it can also be abused by people who believe they have the right to determine when a person dies.
Including a clause or adding a hand written notation that the DNR does not give any party the right to deny medical care to your loved one is advisable. A DNR has the ability to convert a physician or nursing home staff into a psychopath and you should have reservations about signing such a document.