Living Will Or DNR? That Is The Question

No one wants to think about the possibility of end of life decisions but in our world is very real. We never know if or when that day will come or whether we will be able to communicate our wishes. Because of the advances in medicine and technology, people can execute Living Wills long before the need exists. Hill Law Group drafts Living Wills as a part of most estate plans. Signing a Living Will can be scary. People think they are giving up rights but really, the opposite may be true. And, sometimes people get confused thinking the Living Will is the same as a DNR but it is not.

A living will is a legal document that tells others what he or she would want under certain conditions when there would be no medical probability of recovery. Those conditions are outlined and defined by Florida law. The person can choose to withhold different forms of life-extending treatments such as respirators, surgeries, and tube feedings to name a few.

A DNRO, commonly called DNR, is a Do Not Resuscitate Order is an order signed by a medical doctor that tells the medical community not to do CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation – if the person’s heart or lungs stop working. It only covers resuscitation and not the other life-prolonging procedures. In Florida, the DNR is a form created by the Department of Health. The form and questions about it are available at Or, go to and search “DNRO.”


The living will comes in many forms and can express many different kinds of wishes (within limitations of the law) while the DNR is a certain Florida Department of Health form. It is a doctor’s order which must be signed by a medical doctor and the individual or a responsible party.

The Living Will is valid the day it is signed but is not put into play until certain circumstances exist (an example would be: being unable to communicate and terminally ill). The DNR becomes effective the day it is signed. This means if a DNRO is signed, medical staff are directed no to resuscitate under any circumstances.

So, which documents should I have? That depends on your circumstances. We believe every adult should address this question with his or her doctor and, of course, his or her lawyer.