Everyone has the right to refuse medical treatment in the case of a terminal illness. But if you’re thinking about this decision and need some guidance, an excellent place to start is with your loved ones. Communicating your do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order to your family is important because your family will carry out your final wishes. While most people do not want to be resuscitated or on artificial life support, only a small number of individuals have a written DNR order to support their decision. Here are four ways to communicate DNR wishes to family members.
Be Specific About Your Wishes
There is no “wrong” way to make these requests, but many ways to approach this subject. You may simply say, “I don’t want to be resuscitated” or “I want life-sustaining treatment withdrawn.” If you want your family to understand that you do not want these treatments, walk them through turning off the machines with the help of a physician. Describe what each device does, how it makes you feel, and the questions you’d like to ask about withdrawing treatment.
Tell Your Family About Your DNR Order in Person
If possible, discuss this important subject with your doctor in person. Ask if they have a DNR form on file for you and review it with them in as much detail as possible. If you’ve never written anything down, this is a good time.
If you are using a DNR order for the first time, make sure you are familiar with the language of your DNR form. Most DNR forms have a section where family members can see what the person requesting treatment wants from them, so review this carefully. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing this information with your family, ask for help from your doctor, nurse, or clinic staff. Many facilities offer DNR forms to their patients and provide further training to help them use the form effectively.
Have Everything Written in an Advance Care Directive
Putting it down on paper with the help of a lawyer or doctor can make the process clear to your family, but it doesn’t have to be a legal document. If you have written an advance directive, let them know about it. It can help your family understand that this is a thoughtful decision and not just a reaction to illness.
A lawyer will help communicate your end-of-life care wishes. An advance health-care directive is a legal document that identifies the treatments you wish to have or not have if you become incapacitated.
Make Sure Your Family Understands Your DNR Order
It’s normal for family members to react negatively or disappointingly when they learn that they do not want to be resuscitated or on artificial life support. They may be tempted to argue or be angry with you, thinking they know what’s best for you. If they show signs of unhappiness with your decision, it’s important to emphasize how much you love them and respect their opinions. Not everyone will feel comfortable with this decision, so make sure they see how important it is to you.
If you discuss your DNR order with your family positively, you are more likely to keep their support throughout the process. These four ways will help you and your loved ones figure out how to talk about your wishes for end-of-life care. You must talk about these issues now so that everyone involved understands and respects your decisions when the time comes.