DNR and Advanced Directives: What You Need to Know

Planning for the future is more than just setting yourself up financially. Looking ahead to your final moments now will save you and your loved ones from the stress of painful last-minute decisions. Bottom line: you should absolutely have a DNR or advance health care directive.

With a little preparation, your family can give you the peace of mind you deserve and honor the end-of-life plans you’ve chosen. A MedicAlert medical ID and membership can then ensure that your wishes are communicated to your medical care team.  

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a document that states the type of care you want to receive should you become unable to make sound medical decisions for yourself. This can help to prepare for the unexpected if you are seriously injured, diagnosed with terminal illness, have severe dementia, or in a coma.

While laws for advance directives differ from state to state, there are several options. For example: 

  • Living Will – A living will describes the kind of medical treatment you want to receive should you need life-sustaining care. However, it doesn’t allow a chosen designate to make decisions on your behalf should you become seriously or terminally ill. The National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, has a well-written guide to preparing a living will.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare – In the event you’re rendered unable to make your own medical decisions, the durable power of attorney (healthcare proxy) allows a person of your choosing to make these decisions on your behalf.   
  • Pre-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) – Informs your medical team that you’ve requested not to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This order is governed on a per-state or county basis by special laws. Without this document, should your heart stop or you cease breathing, emergency first-responders within the United States will begin CPR or other life saving techniques.   

How do I get a Do Not Resuscitate order? 

The first step is letting your loved ones know what your wishes are. Talk over the options, and let them know what type of end-of-life care you’d like to receive. Next, speak with your medical care team so they are aware of your choices. Pre-hospital DNR orders are considered physician orders, and therefore require a physician’s signature. A pre-hospital DNR instructs medical personnel not to perform CPR on patients when an emergency occurs outside of a hospital.  

Where can I get DNR forms? 

Each state has a specific DNR approval form.  Some states have standardized forms for DNR orders; if the order is not written on that specific form, it cannot be honored. Other states are less regimented, honoring any type of DNR order.  

To be safe, check with your state’s Health Department to understand their specific requirements. Your doctor can also assist you in obtaining and filling out this simple document.  

Does a DNR have to be signed by a doctor? 

Before it is legally binding, the DNR must be signed by a physician as well as notarized by a notary public. Once these steps are completed, your document can be recognized by the state. A properly completed advance directive or DNR form can then be given to all parties, including MedicAlert Foundation.  

What can MedicAlert do for me?  

One of the benefits of a MedicAlert Advantage Plus membership is the ability to store your care directives and end of life wishes as part of your profile, making sure that healthcare providers and first responders are notified of your wishes. 

For over 65 years, MedicAlert has been the globally recognized symbol for medical emergencies. When emergency responders are rushing to provide immediate care for you, the last thing you want is for them to go in ill-equipped. Having prior knowledge of your health issues and wishes can help you get the right care in your moment of need.  

By wearing an easily recognizable MedicAlert ID, medical professionals know immediately that you have a medical condition – and if you have a verified DNR form on file with MedicAlert, we can communicate your wishes to emergency providers. MedicAlert will transit your DNR to the facility treating you so they are clear on your wishes.

It’s important to understand that just because you have “DNR” engraved on your medical ID, first responders are not bound to honor it. They require the correct DNR form – signed by your doctor – in order to withhold CPR. That’s why the MedicAlert team goes the extra mile to ensure that you have a valid form on file. When you request to have “DNR” engraved on an ID, our team will reach out to you to get your DNR form. Once we’ve received it, our team reviews each form to ensure it is properly executed. Once we’ve checked that it’s valid, we upload it to your MedicAlert health record and proceed with engraving your ID as requested. It may add a few days to the delivery of your ID, but it’s worth it to know that your wishes will be honored when it counts.

Who needs a MedicAlert medical ID?  

Medical alert IDs can provide a warning to responding medical teams for any health condition, as well as communicate your wishes regarding resuscitation. People with allergies to medications, food, or external conditions will benefit from wearing a medical ID. Folks living with conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s or dementia, diabetes, heart disease, COPD, epilepsy, and other medical concerns can easily relay the information needed to get proper care in an emergency – whether you’re conscious and alert or not.  

MedicAlert goes the extra mile to ensure that your DNR or end of life wishes can be honored. Our staff reviews every DNR added to a member record to ensure that it meets the requirements for your state and is signed by a physician. Your DNR or healthcare proxy is stored on our HIPPA-compliant servers.  In an emergency, we can transmit your DNR or healthcare proxy to the facility treating you.  

Other medical ID companies allow you to engrave DNR on your ID – but without the properly executed forms to back it up, emergency personnel are not bound to honor the engraving. They must have the correct legal forms. That’s why MedicAlert takes such care to ensure that you have the correct, fully executed forms on file.  

What are other benefits of a MedicAlert membership? 

Included in the MedicAlert Foundation membership are the following benefits: 

  • Confidentiality – Only authorized personnel will be able access your information 
  • Secure storage of your personal records – Documents such as your advance directive or do-not-resuscitate order are stored safely in our secure, HIPAA-compliant database 
  • Availability 24/7 around the world –Your documents are available around the clock, 365 days a year to any responding medical professional anywhere in the world 
  • Family notification service – In the event of an emergency MedicAlert will see that your family or emergency contacts are informed.  
  • Healthcare proxy and provider communication – MedicAlert will, upon request, provide a previously designated healthcare proxy (agent) or your medical care team with a copy of your advance directive forms. This helps ensure your end-of-life plan is communicated.  
  • Internationally recognized – First responders and healthcare professionals around the globe look for and recognize the iconic MedicAlert emblem.
  • Ongoing professional education and training helps healthcare and emergency personnel to understand and access your health information via MedicAlert  

By enrolling in a MedicAlert membership, your critical information is all in one place. You can feel confident that your medical records are secure while still being available to care teams looking after you with MedicAlert’s 24/7 emergency response.  

MedicAlert stores your personal profile so that first responders get the most up-to-date information about you. To help you be prepared, we offer printable patient forms that include your emergency health record.