Guardianship in California – Can a Guardian Sign a DNR for a Ward?

Guardianship in California - Can a Guardian Sign a DNR for a Ward?
Guardianship in California – Lynx Legal Service
Guardianship in California – Can a Guardian Sign a DNR for a Ward?

Thinking about serious illness and life-saving measures that might be taken in a crisis is never pleasant. Unfortunately, with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been confronted with images of how painful life-saving measures can be. This is especially true when there is little hope that the measures will restore the patient to any real quality of life. Some measures designed to prolong life do so in name only; what they are really doing is prolonging the patient’s suffering.

A Do-Not-Resuscitate order, or DNR, is a legally binding medical order directing medical staff not to try to restart a patient’s heart or restore breathing if they suffer cardiac or respiratory arrest. What this usually means is that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will not be performed. If no DNR is in place, medical staff would be obligated to perform CPR.

CPR is both much more painful and often less effective than it looks on TV (which is the only place most of us have seen it). CPR is most effective when used on otherwise healthy individuals. The effectiveness of CPR on frail elderly patients or those with significant medical issues is often much lower.

What’s more, CPR carries the risk for frail patients, including broken bones, damage to organs, and the inability to breathe without a ventilator. It is easy to understand why some older patients choose to request and execute a DNR, allowing them to “slip away” rather than spend their last days in pain from “life-saving” intervention.

That is all well and good when an older person is able to make their own decision. What happens when a frail older patient is legally incapacitated and has a guardian? Can the guardian execute a DNR for the protected person (ward)? The short answer is that yes, a guardian can sign a DNR on behalf of a ward. However, given the literal life-and-death nature of this decision, California law puts certain safeguards in place.

If you have questions about Do-Not-Resuscitate orders or guardianship in California, we invite you to contact our law office – Lynx Legal Service to schedule a consultation. Call us today on +1 888-441-2355 to speak to one of our experts, or alternatively, send an email info@lynxlegal.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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