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Wills and estates: The workings of a do-not-resuscitate order

If someone is very ill and is on the verge of death with a terminal illness, he or she may have made provisions for health care personnel not to use life-saving measures such as feeding tubes, defibrillation or CPR. A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order can be part of wills and estates planning in British Columbia. It is a directive that should be discussed with health care personnel.

A DNR is usually used for terminally ill patients near the end of their lives. A patient may have left specific instructions in his or her estate planning. Often, a person who has power of attorney or who is a decision-maker who has been officially appointed can make these kinds of decisions. A physician will usually honour a DNR, but may ignore one from the patient’s legal decision-maker if he or she believes the patient may not want the DNR enforced. A doctor  could overrule the decision-maker’s directive to have care refused.

If a DNR isn’t on the patient’s chart, the patient will receive emergency treatment. If during treatment, the patient comes to and refuses further treatment, his or her wishes will be granted and treatment will cease. Things can also go the other way. Doctor’s may refuse to use emergency measures on a patient when they believe the treatment won’t help the patient despite the family’s wishes to have treatment administered. 

The issues surrounding DNRs are complicated and need the help of a British Columbia lawyer. Those working on their wills and estates plans would do well to enlist the help of a lawyer in preparing such complex documents. A lawyer will be mindful of all the legalities of the province when helping his or her client with estate planning issues.

Source: findlaw.ca, “How does a do-not-resuscitate order work?“, Accessed on Dec. 15, 2017