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DNRs or "Do Not Resuscitate Orders" in Virginia

Virginia Code Section 54.1-2987.1 allows a physician to issue what is called a "DNR" or "Do Not Resuscitate Order." Often clients believe that this is something that is prepared by an attorney. However, that is not exactly the case.

What is a DNR?

The DNR is issued on a form generated by the Virginia Department of Health. It instructs a patient's healthcare providers to "withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation" in the event of "cardiac or respiratory arrest." Such "resuscitation" would include chest compressions, defibrillation, endotracheal intubation, artificial respiration and other measures.

Who Can Authorize a DNR in Virginia?

If a patient is able to do so, he or she can ask a healthcare provider to create a DNR. According to Virginia Code 54.1-2987.1, once a patient makes such a request, "[i]n no case shall any person other than the patient have the authority to revoke a Do Not Resuscitate Order executed upon the request of and with the consent of the patient... ."

However, if a patient is not able to request a DNR or make an informed decision, authorization for a DNR may be made with "the consent of the person authorized to consent on the patient's behalf."

This last point highlights the importance of incapacity planning. As part of working with an attorney, you can create a plan that appoints family or friends of your choosing to make healthcare decisions like this for you in the event you cannot. Additionally, a good estate plan will likely contain an advance directive that sets forth your wishes about end-of-life care. So while preparing the actual DNR form itself is not something that an attorney would do for a client - an estate planning attorney can help a client appoint an alternate decisionmaker through use of tools like a healthcare power of attorney.

Planning life this is important to ensure that your wishes regarding healthcare can be effectively communicated and honored. However, preparation of a clear plan can also ensure that your loved ones can rest assured that they are making decisions that you would have wanted them to make.


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