April 2018
End of Life Care
Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, Gerontology, Nursing

​Key Facts About End of Life Care

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A Living Will is a written document that explains what medical care you do or do not want if you have a condition in which death is expected in a short time or if you have a condition that you are not expected to wake up from. It’s only used if you are unable to share your wishes with the healthcare team.

A Durable Power of Attorney states who you want to make the decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

Together a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney are called a Healthcare Advance Directive. Your family and doctor should have a copy.


age icon You must be an adult (18 years old in most states) to make health care decisions such as those in a living will. You also must be able to understand what you mean in the written document and how it works.

You do not have to have a lawyer present when you fill out these papers and you may change your mind at any time. 



treatment iconA DNR order is a medical order written by your doctor stating that you do not want lifesaving treatment (CPR) if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. This does not mean that other lifesaving treatment will not be done if your heart is still beating and you are breathing.

A DNR order does not carry over from one admission to another to a hospital or nursing home.  It must be written each time you are admitted if it is still your wish. Pennsylvania also has a law that lets a person have a DNR order at home if emergency personnel are called to transport them.



It is very important for people to speak with their doctors and families about their wishes for medical care BEFORE they become ill and may not be able to communicate those wishes.