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Living Wills And Do Not Resuscitate Orders

A Living Will provides that life will not be artificially prolonged when there is no hope for recovery. To determine that there is no hope for recovery, the patient’s physician and another consulting physician must determine that the patient has a terminal or end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state, and there is no medical probability for recovery.

A Living Will is completely different from a Do Not Resuscitate Order (“DNR”). While everybody who does not want to be kept alive artificially should sign a living will, not everybody should have a DNR. A DNR is appropriate when a patient has a condition that will likely end life in a relatively short time, and for a person who enters a nursing home, and is not expected to be able to leave. It must be executed by the patient’s doctor and the patient, or the patient’s surrogate, guardian, or proxy. If the person expires for any reason, the person will not be revived. A person cannot create this document without the doctor’s signature, and most doctors will not sign one unless the end of life is in the relatively near future.

For example, a woman of 60 years old with a Living Will is struck by lightning, and her heart stops. The paramedics rush to the scene. At first, they do not know whether she can be revived or what condition she will be in if she is revived. But, they must try to revive her. If, on the other hand, they know that she has a DNR, she will not be resuscitated. Any condition or accident that stops the heart, even if it could have been started again, would mark the end of her life.

Everybody should sign health care designation documents, including a health care surrogate form and a living will while the person is competent and able to sign. Only those whose life is expected to end soon, or are not likely to recover from a terminal condition should have a DNR.

Attorney Michael A. Pyle, of Pyle, Dellinger & Duz, PLLC. 1655 North Clyde Morris Blvd., Ste. 1, Daytona Beach. Phone: 386.615.9007. e-mail: or website: