A DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order is Legal in New Jersey Without a Terminal Illness

HNWElder Law, Estate Planning


do not resuscitate order | DNRWe’ve all heard about a “Do Not Resuscitate Order” (DNR) but probably don’t know (precisely) what it means, or how it applies to you in real life.

A DNR order alerts emergency personnel that you do not wish to receive Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. It is a medical order that must be signed by a doctor.

DNR orders are used primarily by people who are already critically ill and feel strongly that they do not want life-prolonging treatment when close to death. If you do not have a DNR order, emergency medical personnel must use all available measures, no matter how invasive, to save your life.

Awhile back a client wanted to create a DNR. He was a healthy active man of 85. However, he had a heart attack. He didn’t want to be revived but to end up housed in an institution or hospital for a long time. His family was opposed because he was gambling with his life, and they also claimed that he couldn’t get a DNR because he wasn’t terminally ill.  Who was right?

No, the family is incorrect; you can establish a valid DNRO without a terminal illness. The document says that in case of respiratory or cardiac failure, CPR should be withheld. A persons desire to avoid being left to linger or suffer is understandable, but it is very important that everyone understand that a DNRO can also prevent you from receiving treatment that might restore you to full capacity.

To be a legal document both you and your doctor must sign the DNRO. Your doctor should have a copy. You should keep a copy on your person. Without seeing it, EMTs are duty-bound to administer CPR.

I can understand the family’s opposition to their desires. After all, they want their father around as long as possible. Obviously, it is very personal; choice and his to make. But I would advise all concerned to talk about it a great deal more, so that everyone can come away with peace of mind.

To discuss your NJ Estate Planning matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Estate Planning Attorney

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