You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in Idaho, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) form. Here, we discuss what a POST form is and when you need one.
A POST form is a doctor's order that helps you keep control over medical care at the end of life. Like a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, the form tells emergency medical personnel and other health care providers whether or not to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. In Idaho, the POST form replaced the state's Comfort One/DNR order as of July 1, 2007. If you have a Comfort One/DNR order, you should make a POST to replace it.
In addition to directions about CPR, a POST form may provide other information about your wishes for end-of-life health care, as discussed below.
A health care professional can help you create a POST form if you enter a medical facility or health care setting -- such as a hospital, nursing home, or hospice care in a facility or at home. To be legally valid, a POST form must be signed by a qualified health care provider, such a physician, advance practice professional nurse, or physician assistant. (Idaho Code § 39-4512A.) If a member of the medical staff does not ask you whether you want to create a POST form, you may ask for one.
In addition to the health care professional's signature, you or your legally appointed health care decisionmaker must sign the POST form.
In Idaho, a POST form is usually printed on brightly colored paper so it will easily stand out in your medical records. The form travels with you if you move from one health care setting to another. You can change it or cancel it at any time.
A POST form differs from a DNR order in one important way: A POST form also includes directions about life-sustaining measures in addition to CPR, such as intubation, antibiotic use, and feeding tubes. The POST form helps medical providers understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for a properly prepared living will and durable power of attorney for health care.
Taken together, a living will and durable power of attorney for health care provide more information than a POST form, including details about your health care agent, more complete health care wishes, and your preference for organ donation. Therefore, even if you have a POST form, you should still complete a living will and durable power of attorney for health care to provide a full set of wishes about your care.
You need to consider a POST only if you're facing a life-threatening medical condition. If you're healthy, you need only a living will and durable power of attorney for health care to provide a full set of wishes for your treatment in the event of an unexpected accident or medical crisis.
On the other hand, a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness or frailty that requires care in a medical setting -- or ongoing care at home -- may need a POST in addition to traditional health care directives. That's because a living will and durable power of attorney for health care may not be enough to prevent medical personnel from resuscitating a patient in an emergency. For that, it's important to have a POST. If you feel strongly that you don't want emergency measures at the end of life -- or if you're caring for someone who feels that way -- find out about making a POST in addition to traditional health care directives.
For details about essential health care directives, see Idaho Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care: What You Need to Know.
To learn more about POST forms, and to view an example of the Idaho POST, visit the website of the Idaho Quality-of-Life Coalition. To prepare a POST form for yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor.