The DNR Form: What is the Role of a Do-Not-Resuscitate Form?

Find out what a Do Not Resuscitate Order is and decide if you need one.

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by Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.
updated May 02, 2022 ·  2min read

As you consider end-of-life care and planning, a DNR form or “do not resuscitate” order is one of the most important legal documents you can have.

But what does a DNR order cover, how does it work, who needs it, and how do you get one? Read on for everything you need to know about DNR forms.

What Is DNR?

DNR stands for “do not resuscitate.” A DNR order instructs medical personnel not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), electric shock to the heart, artificial breathing devices, or other invasive procedures to revive you if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating.

Without a DNR, emergency and hospital care providers will attempt to resuscitate a patient who has stopped breathing or has no heartbeat.

Note that a Do Not Resuscitate Order may also be called a “no-code” or “allow natural death” order by medical personnel but the basic idea is the same.

How Do DNR Forms Work?

A DNR form may be included in a living will or advance directive, both of which allow you to express your preferences regarding end of life care in case you are not able to communicate your wishes when the time comes. If you are a patient admitted to a hospital, your DNR will be inserted into your medical chart.

For a DNR in an emergency situation, you can opt for a “prehospital” or “out of hospital” DNR, which instructs emergency medical personnel to not attempt resuscitation or intubation. In this situation, you should be sure to keep your DNR in a visible place so that first responders are likely to see it otherwise they won’t know not to attempt to revive you.

Who Should Have a DNR Form?

Those with terminal illnesses or who are at high risk for stroke, heart attack, or respiratory arrest often consider having a DNR form.

Even people who are in perfect health, however, should consider having a DNR form if they feel strongly about not being resuscitated or intubated once breathing or heartbeat has ceased.

How Do I Get a DNR Form?

State laws vary as to the legal requirements regarding DNR forms, but generally, they are fairly simple to prepare and execute. Still, you want to be absolutely certain you are following your state’s rules, and if you move across state lines, that your DNR complies with your new home state’s laws.

DNR orders are usually just one-page documents and can be included as part of advance directives or advanced healthcare directives, and you can also include your DNR form as you create a living will.

Having a DNR form in place can give you great peace of mind, knowing that you have expressed your preferences for end of life treatment should the situation arise. You may also want to talk to your loved ones about your choices as well as the location of your DNR form so they are aware of your preferences and not try to go against your wishes.

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Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.

About the Author

Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.

Freelance writer and editor Michelle Kaminsky, Esq. has been working with LegalZoom since 2004. She earned a Juris Docto… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.