We describe a policy allowing paramedics and emergency physicians to honor orders from nursing home records not to perform resuscitation or endotracheal intubation. The policy was adopted by the regional body coordinating emergency medical care and endorsed by the county medical society. The policy establishes community-wide definitions for "do not resuscitate" and "do not intubate" orders. It requires physicians to write such directives in patient's medical records and to update them every two years. It urges long-term care facilities to adopt policies to help ensure good decision-making practices in the formulation of these directives. The policy intends to partially address the unnecessary loss of patient autonomy that occurs when emergency care is administered according to routine orders.