The directives can be elaborate or spare, but generally land on a spectrum between prioritizing comfort and prolonging life, should the two become mutually exclusive. The most common designations are “full code” and “DNR,” but directives can also get very specific. The options are not binary, care or none. A person who voluntarily designates as “DNR” won’t be abandoned—he or she would still get IV fluids, oxygen, and medication, especially for pain.
After determining advance directives, you should share them with family members or friends who might be communicating with medical professionals on your behalf. Have nuanced conversations with people close to you about what you do or don’t want in various dire scenarios. This eases the burden on them.
It eases the burden on the medical providers, as well. Too often, Lindsey says, a person is found unconscious by paramedics, is shocked back to life and brought to the hospital, or put on a ventilator, and only hours later a family member shows up with an advance directive that indicates that was not what the patient wanted. “This was a tragic and challenging scenario pre-COVID, particularly if an individual’s directives weren’t followed during that period of resuscitation,” he says. But in the midst of this pandemic, the delay puts “all the providers in the chain of care” at unnecessary risk of exposure. And it takes a ventilator out of use for someone who might have wanted it.