Effective January 1, 2015 the Illinois legislature changed the end-of-life form commonly known as a Do Not Resuscitate order or DNR. A DNR outlines the specifics regarding one’s wishes to not be resuscitated or kept alive.
Typically the difficulty with this form is that while a DNR is useful to have on hand to guide medical personnel in emergency scenarios, such circumstances usually do not allow for easy access to it.
I used to joke with my clients that they should get their DNR tattooed on their foreheads or printed on a T-shirt to ensure maximum effectiveness.
What’s crucial about the revised DNR form is telegraphed in its new name: the DNR/POLST form. POLST stands for Practitioner Orders for Life Sustaining Treatments. They have expanded the DNR form’s focus to allow for more detail about a person’s end of life wishes.
The new DNR/POLST form now talks about whether or not to institute cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the patient has no pulse and not breathing. It discusses how much treatment and medical intervention you would like if you are found with a pulse and still breathing. It also discusses medically-administered nutrition if you are unable to use your mouth. Finally, it also requires doctor’s signature along with the person completing the form.
Unfortunately this form is not a substitute for a health care power of attorney and not yet a uniform medical record that can easily be accessed by medical personnel. Nonetheless, a DNR/POLST is a valuable improvement to a useful tool that you can set in place with your doctor to ensure one can maintain a highly individual standard for your dignity at the end of your life.
The POLST form is available for free download at the website www.idph.state.il.us/public/books/dnrform.pdf