A term that is bandied about in the estate planning community refers to medical directives. They have become a popular component of comprehensive estate plans in California but there are different types of documents that address different issues. Two examples of health care directives are a living will and a DNR, a "do-not-resuscitate" order.
The two documents accomplish different things and are not mutually exclusive. A living will allows one to leave instructions for one's care should a person become physically or mentally incapacitated and therefore unable to speak for oneself. The document can contain very specific instructions regarding the type of care one wants to allow and what one does not. It can specify directives regarding feeding, dialysis, blood transfusions, use of a ventilator and instructions regarding other life and death decisions.
A DNR does only what its name implies. In the event that a person's heart stops beating, a DNR order instructs the medical staff to not attempt to revive the person through any kind of intervention. They are typically put in place for patients suffering from late stage terminal cancer or who are very elderly or frail.
There are many different documents that can comprise a comprehensive estate plan. Health care directives are a very important component. A person in California who wants to create an estate plan, or would like to review an existing one, could benefit from a consultation with an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can review one's situation and make recommendations to help one ensure that unforeseen eventualities are provided for.