What’s the Difference Between a DNR and a POA?

by | Mar 1, 2021 | End of Life

End of life documents can be quite confusing and intimidating (the use of acronyms doesn’t help). So we’d like to set the record straight and help clear things up. Let’s start with the types of documents commonly used:


This simply stands for Power of Attorney. When healthcare is involved, it can also be referred to as a Healthcare POA. There are different types of POAs, however, a Healthcare POA (or Healthcare Proxy) is an important legal document that provides authorization for someone to represent or act on your behalf in medical situations where you are unable to do so for yourself.


These letters stand for Do Not Resuscitate. A DNR order is given/written by a physician stating the patient’s wishes not to be resuscitated if that need arises. This is usually prepared a short time in advance, generally during a hospital stay or a long illness. In the state of Illinois a POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) in now used instead of a DNR.


As mentioned above, a POLST is a Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. These have replaced DNR’s and are a much better way to address the complex issues that can arise when extreme medical intervention is needed. Instead of simply addressing the desire to be resuscitated in a medical emergency, a POLST also addresses the use of CPR, level of care desired, the use of feeding tubes, etc. In addition, POLST’s are fairly standardized across the United States, though each state still has individual differences.

Advanced Directives/Living Wills

These are end of life documents that work hand in hand with a POA to carry out the wishes and preferences regarding healthcare and end of life procedures (use of ventilators, feeding tubes, etc.). These documents can be a helpful guide to the appointed healthcare agent who has been named in the POA.

Creating POAs is something we do on a regular basis. To read more about Powers of Attorney, click HERE.