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Dear Attorneys,

I need to draft a Medical Directive. Or maybe a Living Will. I’m not really sure if they are the same. What is the difference between a “full code” Living Will and a DNR?


Fully Confused

Dear Fully,

In general, the terms “medical directive” and “living will” can be used interchangeably.  The intent is to have your intent documented for what, if any, procedures you would like if you should become terminally ill and/or you are incapacitated and cannot make your own medical decisions.

“DNR” stands for “do not resuscitate.” That means that if you draft your Medical Directive (or Living Will) as a DNR, then medical professionals will not resuscitate you, even if you could potentially be saved.  The opposite of that, so to speak, is what we call “full code language.” If you have a Medical Directive or Living Will that dictates that life-saving measures should be done until you are officially “coded,” then all possible medical measures will be taken to maintain and resuscitate life. These measures can include, but may not be limited to CPR, defibrillation, intensive cardiac monitoring or treatment, nutritional and/or respiratory support and any surgical intervention will also be completed unless such is otherwise indicated or declined. If you do not have a Medical Directive, Living Will, or other DNR documentation, then individuals are always treated, as a default, as full code by emergency responders unless someone tells them otherwise.

If you do have additional questions, you should seek the advice of counsel.  Wolf & Shore Law Group is here to make your estate planning matter easier, not harder.  Ever argue with a woman? Let Wolf & Shore Law Group go to work for you. Call us at 203.745.3151 or email us at

Very Truly Yours,

Wolf & Shore Law Group

*The situations represented in our Dear Attorneys column are entirely fictional and any resemblance to a specific case is unintentional. We cannot, and will not, offer legal advice to anyone who is not a client. However, if you do have questions or concerns, you should contact an attorney at your convenience.

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