Handbook for Mortals : Questions and Answers About Advance Directives : What if my advance directive cannot be found?

Written advance directives are often unavailable or can't be found when important decisions need to be made. What happens to patients who are at home when emergency treatment becomes necessary, but have an advance directive in their hospital medical records?

Emergency medical teams will try cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on all people found to be in cardiac arrest. Picture of a bracelet with a do not resuscitate order on it This response may not coincide with the wishes of people who are seriously ill. In an effort to give patients control of this situation, many states have ways to advise emergency medical technicians (EMTs) about your directives. Some states issue bracelets, indicating a personís wish not to be resuscitated if he or she is found unconscious by emergency personnel. In other states, emergency medical technicians now look for "do-not-resuscitate" (DNR) forms in prominent areas in the home, such as on the refrigerator or next to a person's bed. Similar to living wills, DNR forms allow individuals to document preferences for care. Ask your doctor or call your local emergency medical services organization to find out about local policies.

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Keywords: Advance care planning, DNR, D.N.R.
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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